THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OPENS
DOMESTIC VISA RENEWAL FOR CERTAIN
H-1B VISA APPLICANTS
HOW THIS SITUATION AROSE
Nearly twenty years ago the U.S. Department of State (DOS) discontinued non-diplomatic visa renewals within the United States. At that time the agency stated that it was unable to satisfy the more stringent post 9/11 biometrics requirements of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. DOS is using the pilot program to test its ability to resume domestic visa renewals and to determine whether the program will contribute to reducing worldwide visa wait times.
Since 2004 employers and immigration advocates have sought the return of the domestic visa renewal process due to the long waiting times to renew visas at U.S. consulates abroad. Significant wait times for obtaining visa renewals overseas has created uncertainty for employers and employees.
The uncertainties of consular processing have led many businesses and visa applicants to enthusiastically greet the return of domestic visa processing. However, this excitement should be tempered by the initial scope of the pilot program.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Certain H-1B visa holders will be able to apply for renewal online beginning Jan. 29, 2024. The pilot will run from Jan. 29 to April 1, 2024, and will be open to a total of 20,000 H-1B visa holders.
Participation is limited to applicants who:
- Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa “reciprocity” fee;
- Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
- Have submitted ten fingerprints to DOS in connection with a previous visa application;
- Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
- Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver;
- Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;
- Were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;
- Are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States;
- Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and
- Intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
The State Department will open about 4,000 application slots every week, dividing them between individuals whose prior visas were approved by Mission Canada and those whose visas were approved by Mission India. Application slots will become available on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 12, Feb. 19 and Feb. 26.
- DOS indicates that the approximate processing times for domestic H-1B visa renewal applications should be six to eight weeks.
- Those H-1B visa holders who do not satisfy the eligibility criteria (listed above) must continue to submit visa renewal applications at U.S. Consulates abroad.
- DOS will begin accepting applications on January 29, 2024, via https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domestic-renewal.html.
- To manage the expected number of applications received, DOS will release application slots each week starting January 29th, with 2,000 slots for H-1B visas issued in Canada and 2,000 slots for H1B visas issued in India. Applicants must submit an online DS-160 application and pay a nonrefundable $205 MRV fee. Applicants will receive instructions via the link on how to send required documents.
DOS states that, it “is looking to alleviate the uncertainty often experienced by U.S. companies that employ temporary workers requiring petition-based visas, as well as the uncertainty experienced by their impacted workers.” Although the initial pilot program is limited in scope, DOS is expected to expand the pilot to other visa categories and countries of visa issuance in the future. For more information or counsel regarding this program, please contact Charles Gillman at [email protected]