Last Updated on February 8, 2024
The Department of State (DOS) has announced the launch of a domestic visa renewal pilot program for qualified H-1B nonimmigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements.
The goal of this pilot is to test DOS’ technical and operational ability to process visa renewals from within the U.S. for specific nonimmigrant categories and to assess the effectiveness of this program in reducing visa wait times worldwide by shifting some work from Embassies/Consulates abroad to the U.S.
The pilot program will process 20,000 visa applications and will be open for online applications from Jan. 29, 2024, to Apr. 1, 2024, on the DOS pilot program website. After completing the program’s eligibility assessment, qualified applicants must electronically complete and submit Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and pay the required, non-refundable, non-transferrable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee. After DS-160 submission and payment, qualified applicants will receive instructions through the portal for mailing passports and other required documents for processing.
Participation in this pilot will be limited to applicants who:
- Are seeking to renew an H-1B visa; during the pilot phase, the DOS will not process any other visa classifications;
- Have a prior H-1B visa that is being renewed and was issued by Mission Canada with an issuance date from Jan. 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of Feb. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021;
- Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (Note: this is commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”);
- Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
- Have submitted 10 fingerprints to the DOS in connection with a previous visa application;
- Have a prior visa without a “clearance received” annotation;
- Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;
- Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;
- Were most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status;
- Are currently maintaining H-1B status in the U.S.;
- The period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and
- Intend to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
Regarding the second criterion, which limits eligibility to only individuals issued visas by DOS in Canada and India during specific time frames, DOS said in the Federal Register notice that they are “limiting the scope of the pilot to applicants who were previously issued visas within specified dates by Missions Canada or India to properly assess the performance and capabilities of contractors who manage the majority of the Department’s worldwide visa processing.”
The 20,000 application slots will be released incrementally. DOS will release approximately 2,000 application slots for applicants whose most recent H-1B visas were issued by Mission Canada, and approximately 2,000 application slots for those whose most recent H-1B visas were issued by Mission India (approximately 4,000 total each week) on the following dates:
- January 29
- February 5
- February 12
- February 19
- February 26
Applications will be considered in the order received. DOS will not consider requests for expedited processing and the average processing time is expected to be six to eight weeks from the time that the passport and other required documents are received by DOS. DOS aims to complete processing of all applications no later than May 1, 2024.
Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in collaboration with Anne Walsh, who is a Partner at Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).
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