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Spotlight on U.S. Series

In our Spotlight on U.S. immigration series, we round up the latest developments from the United States.  In this post we explore the U.S. State Department initiation of the long awaited domestic visa renewal pilot program.


Domestic H-1B Visa Renewal Pilot Program

Beginning January 29, 2024, the U.S. State Department will initiate the long-awaited domestic visa renewal pilot program, starting with stateside H-1B visa renewal. The program will initially be limited to those who meet detailed criteria and specifically received H-1B visas from U.S. Embassies or Consulates in India or Canada.


From January 29 through April 1, 2024, the program will accept a maximum of 20,000 applications, with the program closing when that cap is met.  Applications will open weekly (January 29, February 5, February 12, February 19, and February 26) with a limit of 4,000 applications per week, divided between an approximately 2,000 max for India issued visas and 2,000 max for Canada issued visas- after which the applications will close until the following week. Due to the expected high volume of applicants, it should be noted that individuals may attempt to apply weekly.


Domestic visa renewal will initially be available to those meeting all of the following criteria:-

  • Have a previous H-1B visa issued specifically by a:
    • U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Canada between January 1, 2020 to April 1, 2023 or,
    • U.S. Embassy or Consulate in India between February 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021.
  • The individual is not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (“reciprocity fee” due to their country of citizenship)
  • The individual is eligible for a waiver of the in-person visa interview requirement
  • The individual has previously provided biometrics (submission of ten fingerprints)
  • The individual’s prior visa did not include an annotation noting “clearance received”
  • The individual does not require a visa ineligibility waiver
  • The individual has a valid and current H-1B Approval
  • The individual latest entry into the U.S. was in H-1B status
  • The individual has maintained H-1B status in the U.S. and has a valid H-1B I-94 record
  • The individual intends to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status after their next temporary trip abroad.


The State Department will have a website dedicated to the program go live shortly ahead of the January 29, 2024 date, which will provide further information on eligibility for all applicants. Once eligibility is confirmed, the applicant can proceed to complete a Form DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application and pay the non-refundable $205 visa application processing fee online. After payment, the applicant will receive passport and document submission instructions. The standard visa processing documents will be required, which includes the applicant’s passport (valid for 6+ months with at least one blank page), a completed DS-160, a passport-size photograph meeting their specifications, a copy of the valid USCIS Form I-797 H-1B Approval Notice, and a copy of their I-94 record. The application must be submitted via U.S. Postal Service or commercial courier service to the State Department. Upon the State Department’s receipt of the application, eligibility will be reviewed again. If the applicant is deemed ineligible, the fee will be retained, and the application materials returned. If the application is deemed incomplete, the State Department has indicated that they may permit applications to be corrected (missing documents to be added or errors to be remedied) by a specified deadline.


Expected adjudication processing time after eligibility approval is currently estimated to be around 6-8 weeks, and there is no expedite option. This timeline may be longer, at the Embassy or Consulate’s discretion after document review. All applications are expected to be adjudicated by May 1, 2024.


Applicants are permitted to withdraw their application if they have an urgent need to travel abroad. A withdrawn application will be considered a visa refusal, however, according to the State Department, this should not cause concern for future applications. Upon return to the U.S., they must complete the eligibility process, DS-160 application, and pay a new fee to proceed with stateside proceeding again. If an application is denied for ineligibility or security screening reasons, the applicant will need to proceed with the standard visa renewal process abroad.


Employer and foreign nationals have eagerly awaited the return of stateside visa processing, due to the lengthy delays and reservations with travelling abroad for a renewal. While the current pilot program may appear limited- with success, the State Department will expand the pilot to further countries of visa issuance and visa categories in the future.


For more information, the Department of State issued an update on the pilot: Department of State to Process Domestic Visa Renewals in Limited Pilot Program. For full details of the program, as published by the Federal Register: Pilot Program To Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens.


Should you have any questions relating to this update, please contact Aryanah Eghbal ([email protected]) and Mairin Hoban ([email protected]).


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