The State Department will allow a limited number of H-1B holders to renew their visas in the United States under a pilot program, the details of which were unveiled Wednesday.

Key Points:

  • 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.
  • To be eligible, applicants must:
    • Be seeking to renew an H-1B visa.
    • The H-1B visa being renewed was issued by Mission Canada with an issuance date from Jan. 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023, or by Mission India with an issuance date from Feb. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021.
    • Not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (i.e., a “reciprocity fee”).
    • Be eligible for an interview waiver.
    • Have submitted 10 fingerprints to the State Department in connection with a previous visa application.
    • Not have a “clearance received” annotation on the prior H-1B visa.
    • Not require a waiver of visa ineligibility or inadmissibility.
    • Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
    • Have been most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status.
    • Be currently maintaining H-1B status in the U.S.
    • Have a period of authorized admission in H-1B status that has not expired.
    • Intend to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
  • Eligible visa holders will be able to apply for renewal online beginning Jan. 29, 2024.
  • The State Department will open about 4,000 application slots every week, dividing them roughly equally 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.
  • The State Department said the average processing times for domestic visa renewal would be six to eight weeks. Officials aim to complete processing of all applications by May 1.
  • The program is voluntary, and eligible applicants may continue to submit renewal applications at visa processing posts abroad. Those who do not meet the pilot’s eligibility criteria must continue to submit visa renewal applications outside of the United States.
  • The State Department is expected to publish a notice on the pilot program in the Federal Register Thursday. A pre-publication version of the notice is available here.

BAL Analysis: The pilot program is an important step toward bringing back domestic visa renewal, which has not been widely available in the U.S. since 2004. The pilot will be open only to a limited number of H-1B visa holders, but it could be expanded to other individuals and visa categories later in 2024. BAL will provide additional updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice Group.

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