The Department of State announced that, beginning on January 29, 2024, and ending on April 1, 2024, certain H-1B applicants will be eligible to renew their H-1B visa stamp without having to travel internationally to a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Eligible applicants will apply through an online portal found at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visa/employment/domestic-renewal.html
To be eligible for this Pilot Program, i.e., test program, an individual must:
- Be seeking to renew an H-1B visa stamp;
- Have their prior H-1B visa stamp issued by Mission Canada with an issue date between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2023, OR issued by Mission India with an issue date between February 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021;
- Not subject to a visa reciprocity fee;
- Be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirements;
- Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department of State in connection with the prior visa application;
- Have a prior visa that does NOT include “clearance received” annotation;
- Not have a visa ineligibility that requires a waiver of such ineligibility prior to visa issuance;
- Have an approved and unexpired H-1B I-797 Approval Notice;
- Have been most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;
- Be currently maintaining H-1B status;
- Period of authorized H-1B stay has not expired; and
- Intend to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status after any temporary stay abroad.
Readers should note that this Pilot Program currently only applies to principal H-1B applicants. H-4 dependents are NOT yet included in this program nor are other visa statuses, e.g., L-1, and the program is specifically limited to the two Missions listed above for the dates of visa issuance listed above. The Pilot Program is designed as a test and the Department of State has determined this particular group of individuals will be a strong representative group to test the adequacy of this program.
Additionally, to control the number of applicants, the Department of State will release about 2,000 appointments weekly for each Mission (or 4,000 per week total). The appointments will become available on January 29, February 5, February 12, February 19, and February 26. Once the 2,000 appointments for each Mission are reached for that week, the portal will lock until the following week.
In the portal, an applicant will complete the domestic visa renewal navigator to allow the Department of State to review eligibility qualifications. If qualified and appointments available, the applicant will then complete a DS-160 Visa Application and pay the appropriate visa application fee. The applicant will then be directed to send their passport and visa documents to the dedicated address by mail or courier. Published processing times for the visa renewal are 6-8 weeks. The Department of State will not consider requests for expedited processing.
As with all visa applications, visa issuance is not guaranteed. Further, if the Department of State determines that an individual is subject to an interview, the visa will be denied and the applicant will need to re-apply at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad for a new visa (this will also require a new DS-160 and visa application fee).
This is a welcome return to domestic visa processing and we remain hopeful that this Pilot Program sparks a full return to this alternative visa issuance process for additional applicants in the future.
If you have any questions about the Pilot Program or your eligibility, please contact your FordMurray attorney.
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