In a recent interview, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services Julie Stufft in the Bureau of Consular Affairs confirmed that the U.S. Department of State will soon allow certain visa holders to renew their visa stamps within the United States, without requiring travel to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The pilot program—slated to launch later this year—will offer a domestic visa renewal option specifically to H-1B and L-1 visa holders and may include other visa holders in the future.
The Department of State has not allowed domestic visa renewals since 2004 and will be opening a new consular division in Washington, D.C., to process these visas.
This announcement is one in a series of announcements the Department of State has made relating to consular nonimmigrant visa processing, with the goal of reducing significant visa backlogs abroad, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, on December 23, 2021, the Department of State authorized consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain H-2, F, M, Academic J, H-1, H-3, L, O, P, and Q visa applicants and their dependents, resulting in an increased use of consular “dropbox” services and a decrease in visa appointment backlogs. On December 23, 2022, that authorization was further extended until December 31, 2023.
Long visa appointment wait times have caused many nonimmigrant visa holders to remain stuck abroad while waiting for visa approval, while a limited number of consular officers battled a significant workload. This new pilot program is intended to help ameliorate both issues.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to these and other policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog and in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.