The Department of State (DOS) just announced a pilot program to resume domestic visa renewal for certain H-1B visa holders. The pilot program will accept applications from January 29, 2024, to April 4, 2024, and it is limited to the renewal of certain H-1B visas issued by DOS consular offices in Canada and India.
DOS discontinued domestic renewal of non-diplomatic nonimmigrant visas in 2004. DOS explained that the goal of the program is to test DOS’ technical and operational ability to resume domestic visa renewals for specific nonimmigrant visa classifications and to assess the efficacy of this program in reducing worldwide visa wait times. DOS explained that the pilot program is limited to those who received visas from consular posts in Canada and India in an effort to provide meaningful results without overwhelming resources as that population of applicants is representative of the larger global population.
Only H-1B visa holders are included in the pilot program. DOS explained that including other visa categories, including H-4 dependents, created additional challenges that could not be resolved before the pilot launch date. DOS will continue to develop processes to adjudicate additional visa categories concurrent with the pilot, leveraging real-time data and feedback.
Who is Eligible?
Participation in the pilot program is limited to applicants who(se):
- Prior H-1B visa was issued by consular offices in Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or in India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021;
- Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa reciprocity fee;
- Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
- Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;
- Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
- Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver;
- Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;
- Were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;
- Are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States;
- Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and
- Intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
DOS will begin accepting applications on January 29, 2024, via https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domestic-renewal.html. To control the number of applications received, DOS will release 4,000 application slots each week starting January 29, with 2,000 slots for H-1B visas issued in Canada and 2,000 slots for H-1B visas issued in India. Applicants must submit an online DS-160 application and pay a non-refundable $205 MRV fee via major debit or credit card. Applicants will receive instructions through the portal on where and how to send their passport and other required documents.
Required documents include: the electronically filed DS-160, passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond visa application date with at least one blank unmarked page), one photo which meets specifications, original or copy of current I-797 approval notice, and original or copy of I-94 (available on I-94 website or on Form I-797). As the instructions allow an “original or copy” of the I-797, applicants may wish to only send a copy of the I-797 so they retain that document for future travel and I-9 purposes.
The average processing time is expected to be six to eight weeks from the time the passport and other required documents are received by the DOS. DOS aims to complete the processing of all applications no later than May 1, 2024. DOS will not consider requests for expedited processing. Those who need to travel urgently may withdraw their application and request that their passport be returned.
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