U.S. Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Program Expected in Early 2024

Published by on October 25, 2023

Great news for many H-1B visa holders!

On October 17, 2023, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has published a notice in the Federal Register entitled, “Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens”. The program would allow the DOS to issue a visa stamp on a passport without the visa holder having to renew their visas at a U.S. consulate outside the United States. The notice provides additional information about the upcoming pilot program, which would initially limit itself to H-1B visa holders.

At present, all visa holders who wish to renew their U.S. nonimmigrant visas are required to leave the United States and schedule an interview appointment at a U.S. Consular/Embassy post abroad. While some individuals can qualify for interview waivers, which can cut down on the wait time, they must still depart the United States to process their visa renewal abroad and re-enter the United States. This process can be both time-consuming and burdensome on visa holders as well as Consular posts abroad.

While the full details have not yet been released, it is expected that eligibility criteria for the pilot program will involve the following:

– Begin in early 2024;
– Be limited to the H-1B principal only (meaning no dependent H4 visa holders);-
– Be limited to nationals of countries that are not subject to reciprocity fees. This would include countries such as India;
– Have eligibility requirements similar to those of the current interview waiver program;
– Be available for 20,000 applicants; and
– Be voluntary.

While the above details are still preliminary concerning the stateside visa renewal program, they do show positive movement towards the adoption of such a highly requested program. The launch of such a program is an important step that will greatly reduce the backlog at U.S. Consular posts abroad when it comes to requests for visa renewal interview appointments. Further, it will allow for a faster, cheaper, and more convenient means for H-1B visa holders within the United states to renew their H-1B visas without having to travel abroad.

The State Department has indicated that the initial launch of this stateside visa renewal process will be a limited pilot program to test out the operationality of the program. If the pilot program proves successful, the DOS has expressed its strong desire to expand the program’s eligibility to other visa categories and individuals.

If you have any questions about this new rule, please contact our office.

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