U.S. Department of State Announces Visa Renewal Pilot Program

December 22, 2023Legal Alerts

The U.S. Department of State has released details on a proposed pilot program testing the agency’s ability to resume domestic visa renewals for certain nonimmigrant visa categories and to study the effect the program has on reducing visa wait times worldwide. The program will begin on January 29, 2024 and end on April 1, 2024. It is available to applicants who are renewing an H-1B visa issued by Mission Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or by Mission India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021. H-4 dependents are excluded from the pilot.

Participation is voluntary and limited to principal H-1B applicants who(se):

  • Are seeking to renew an H-1B visa during the pilot phase between January 29, 2024 and April 1, 2024;
  • Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance (reciprocity) fee;
  • Are eligible for an in-person interview waiver (otherwise known as “dropbox”);
  • Have submitted ten fingerprints to DOS in connection with the prior visa application;
  • Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
  • No visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to issuance;
  • Must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, must be most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status and are maintaining H-1B status in the United States (if you were admitted pursuant to Advance Parole, you would not qualify for the pilot program);
  • Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and
  • Intend to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

DOS plans to release, on a first-come, first-served basis, approximately 2,000 application slots each week for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by Mission Canada and approximately 2,000 application slots for those whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by Mission India. Once the weekly limits are reached for each mission, the online application portal will be locked until the following week. The application process will close when all slots are filled, or on April 1, 2024, whichever is sooner. Applications must be submitted at this website.

Applicants will select the Canada or India consular post of their most recent H-1B visa issuance and answer a series of questions to determine their eligibility to participate in the pilot. If eligible, applicants will the complete and submit the electronic Form DS-160, pay the visa fee and send their passports and other required documents to the DOS.

If an application is adjudicated but does not satisfy the scope of the pilot for any reason, it will result in a refusal under INA 221(g). The applicant may then reapply by filing a new visa application at a consular post abroad with a new fee.

The DOS believes the average processing time should be 6-8 weeks from the time the completed application and documents are received by DOS. The agency intends to complete processing of all visa pilot applications by no later than May 1, 2024. No requests for expedited processing will be accepted. Issued visas, passports, and documents submitted will be returned to the applicant via USPS or a courier service.

If you have any questions, please contact your Dinsmore immigration attorney.