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21 dic 2023
H-1B VisaSuper News

H-1B Visa Renewals: U.S. Launches Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program

The U.S. State Department has introduced the Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program, starting January 29, 2024. This initiative offers a streamlined and efficient visa renewal process right within the U.S., eliminating the hassle of traveling abroad for renewal. Discover if you meet the criteria and how you can benefit from this simplified process.

H-1B Visa Renewals: U.S. Launches Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program

In a move that is set to streamline the visa renewal process for a select group of foreign nationals, the U.S. State Department is introducing a groundbreaking Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program. The program is slated to commence on January 29, 2024. The initiative aims to facilitate the renewal of H-1B visas within the U.S., eliminating the need for eligible applicants to travel abroad to a U.S. consulate.

The pilot program will run until April 1, 2024, or until the designated 20,000 application slots are filled – whichever comes first. This initiative is part of the ongoing efforts to enhance the efficiency of visa processes and reduce potential uncertainties and delays associated with overseas renewals.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for participation in the Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program, applicants must meet specific criteria. To be eligible, the applicant must meet the following:

  • The prior H-1B visa being renewed was issued in Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or in India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021.
  • They are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee, commonly known as a “reciprocity fee,” based on their country of citizenship.
  • They are eligible for a waiver of the in-person visa interview requirement.
  • They submitted their ten fingerprints to the State Department during a previous visa application.
  • The prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation.
  • No requirement for a waiver of visa ineligibility.
  • The beneficiary of an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
  • The most recent admission to the U.S. was in H-1B status.
  • Currently maintaining H-1B status in the U.S. with a valid, unexpired H-1B I-94 form.
  • Intent to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

Application Process

Applicants will be required to navigate a dedicated State Department webpage, expected to be operational closer to the program's opening date. The application process involves a self-guided eligibility assessment followed by the completion of the standard Form DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application.

Application filing slots will be released weekly on the following dates:

  • January 29, 2024
  • February 5, 2024
  • February 12, 2024
  • February 19, 2024
  • February 26, 2024

Approximately 4,000 applications will be accepted each week, with a distribution limit of 2,000 from applicants with visas issued by a U.S. consulate in India and 2,000 from those with visas issued by a U.S. consulate in Canada.

Document Submission

Upon successful completion of the initial steps, applicants must submit the following documents via U.S. mail or commercial courier service following the electronically completed DS-160 Form:

  • One passport-size photograph meeting State Department specifications.
  • A passport valid for at least six months beyond the visa application date.
  • A copy of the applicant’s valid, unexpired USCIS H-1B petition approval on Form I-797.
  • A copy of the applicant’s valid, unexpired Form I-94 arrival record.

Adjudication and Timeline

The State Department anticipates a 6-8 week adjudication period from the receipt of passport and supporting documents, with all applications expected to be processed by May 1, 2024. The department will not expedite applications, and if an applicant requires urgent travel, they can withdraw their application, though this will be considered a visa refusal.

Reapplication and Denials

In case of denial or incomplete applications, the foreign national must reapply for visa renewal at a U.S. consulate abroad. The State Department may allow the cure of minor defects, such as missing documents, errors, or missing information, by providing the requested information by April 15, 2024.

Implications for Foreign Nationals and Employers

The introduction of this pilot program presents a unique opportunity for eligible foreign nationals to renew their H-1B visas within the U.S., mitigating potential challenges associated with an overseas renewal. While the initial scope is limited, the State Department expresses its intent to expand the program to include additional visa categories and countries in the future.

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Robert Wees
U.S. Immigration CounselRobert Wees
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