On December 15, 2023, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs cleared review of the U.S. Department of State’s highly anticipated stateside visa renewal pilot program. The program will apply only to H-1B applicants and will not include any other visa types (including H-4 visas).
The pilot program will begin accepting applications on January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, with 4,000 slots opening each week on the following dates:
- January 29
- February 5
- February 12
- February 19
- February 26
The pilot program is open to individuals who currently possess H-1B visas that were issued by:
- a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023; or
- a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021.
To be eligible for participation in the program, the applicant must meet the following criteria:
- The applicant must be seeking to renew an existing H-1B visa.
- The applicant must be eligible for an in-person visa interview waiver.
- The applicant must have submitted ten fingerprints to the consulate with a previous visa application.
- The applicant must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
- The applicant must have most recently been admitted to the United States in H-1B status.
- The applicant must be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States.
- The applicant’s period of authorized admission in H-1B status must not have expired.
- The applicant must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
Additionally, the applicant’s prior visa must not contain a “clearance received” annotation, the applicant must not require a waiver to be issued a visa, and the applicant must not be subject to a nonimmigrant reciprocity fee.
Applicants who are eligible may apply on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’s website once the program is initiated.
The State Department estimates the average processing time to be approximately six to eight weeks once the agency receives documentation and estimates that it will finish processing all of the applications no later than May 1, 2024. The State Department stated that it would not expedite any requests.
The State Department is limiting this program to the above parameters to allow the agency to assess its capacity for in-country visa renewals. Depending on the success of this pilot program, the agency may consider expanding the program.
Participation in the program is voluntary, and individuals may still apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate even if they meet the criteria for the pilot program.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to this policy change and will provide updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available.
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