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State Department Begins Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Program on January 29, 2024

Beginning January 29, 2024, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) will allow a limited number of H-1B workers to renew their visa (travel sticker inserted into the passport) by mail, without needing to leave the U.S. Normally, H-1B workers must renew their visas at a U.S. consular post abroad, requiring international travel. Such travel carries risk of visa issuance delays, potentially stranding the applicant abroad for a long time. Thus, the ability to renew a visa from within the U.S. is an exciting development for employers and H-1B employees.

To qualify, applicants must hold an H-1B visa issued by a U.S. consulate in India between February 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, or an H-1B visa issued by a U.S. consulate in Canada between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2023. The program does not currently cover H-4 visas for dependent spouses and children. We anticipate that DOS will eventually expand the program to cover more applicants. DOS estimates a processing time of 6-8 weeks, however there is no option to request an expedite. More details about the application process and full eligibility criteria are included below.

Eligibility:
The applicant must:

  • Have a prior H-1B visa that was issued by:
    • Mission Canada between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2023 OR
    • Mission India between February 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021
  • Not be subject to a visa reciprocity fee (Indian nationals, for example, are not)
  • Be eligible for an in-person interview waiver, meaning the applicant:
    • Has never been refused a visa
    • Has no apparent or potential ineligibility for the visa
    • Was previously issued a visa other than a B visa
    • The previous visa expired less than 48 months ago
  • The prior H-1B visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation
  • Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition; have been most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States


Note: This does not include H-4 dependent visas, only H-1B applicants!

Application Period:

After the slots are filled each week, the portal will close until the next week’s application slots become available. The portal will remain open after February 26, 2024 until all the application slots are filled, or April 1, 2024, whichever comes first.

How to Apply:

  • Applicants will be asked a series of questions to determine eligibility, then be instructed to complete the online DS-160 form and pay the non-refundable, non-transferrable MRV fee online
  • Once processed they will receive instructions for mailing in the passport, passport-style photograph and other required documents to the State Department for processing
  • Applications will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis
  • Applicants will be able to review the status of their application via the DOS website

 

Note: The MRV fee is non-refundable under any circumstance. If the State Department tool erroneously allows an unqualified applicant to proceed, the fee will not be refunded nor transferred to a different visa application process.

Processing Time:

Applications will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis. The State Department estimates a processing time of 6-8 weeks from the date the documents are received, with the goal of completing all submitted applications by May 1, 2024.

Further Information:

Please contact any member of our Immigration Practice Group if you have any questions regarding the Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Program.

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