Domestic H-1B Visa Renewals Start in January 2024
- The U.S. Department of State is introducing a stateside visa renewal pilot program in January 2024 that will allow for 20,000 H-1B visa applications.
- The program will be limited to eligible foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa from a U.S. consulate in India between Feb. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, or foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa from a U.S. consulate in Canada between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023.
- This Holland & Knight alert examines application requirements, eligibility parameters and other key elements of the pilot program.
Just in time to spread the holiday cheer, the U.S. Department of State announced that it will open a stateside visa renewal pilot program in January 2024. The program will be limited to a total of 20,000 H-1B visa applications, and applicants must file the Form DS-160 visa application online and begin the process at a dedicated State Department domestic renewal website.
Who Is Eligible
The pilot program will be limited to eligible foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa from a U.S. consulate in India between Feb. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, and foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa from a U.S. consulate in Canada between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023. To qualify, foreign nationals also must demonstrate that:
- they are the beneficiary of an approved and unexpired H-1B petition
- they are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee, commonly called a "reciprocity fee," based on country of citizenship
- they are eligible for a waiver of the in-person visa interview requirement
- they submitted 10 fingerprints to the State Department during a previous visa application
- their most recent admission to the U.S. was in H-1B status
- they are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States and have a valid, unexpired H-1B I-94 form
- their prior visa does not include a "clearance received" annotation
- they do not require a waiver of visa ineligibility
- they intend to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad
Starting on Jan. 29, 2024, the pilot program will allow eligible applicants to renew an H-1B visa in the United States. Application slots will be made available weekly on the following dates: Jan. 29, 2024, and Feb. 5, 12, 19 and 26, 2024. The pilot program is expected to close on April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever occurs first.
How to Apply
There will be a limit of approximately 4,000 applications per week, limited to 2,000 from applicants with visas issued by a U.S. consulate in India and 2,000 from applicants with a visa issued by a U.S. consulate in Canada. When each application limit is reached, the State Department will close the website until the next application slot release date. To apply, applicants will complete a questionnaire to determine if they are eligible for the pilot program and, if so, they will be directed to the Form DS-160 electronic nonimmigrant visa application and required to pay a $205 nonrefundable application fee. Once the fee is paid, applicants will receive instructions on submitting their passports and required application documents to the State Department, along with a list of required documents to submit. Applications are expected to take approximately six to eight weeks to adjudicate from the time the passport and supporting documents are received. No expedite requests will be available, but applications can be withdrawn if urgent travel is required.
Reasons for Visas
Visas are required for many foreign nationals, including all H-1B nonimmigrants (with the exception of Canadians) to enter the U.S. after international travel. Currently, all foreign nationals who need a visa are required to travel to a U.S. consulate abroad, apply for a visa and wait one to two weeks or more to receive a passport back with the visa stamped inside. In some cases, foreign nationals are stuck outside of the U.S. for weeks or even months, depending on agency delays during the visa process. This unpredictable process often causes considerable delay and disruption for foreign workers, as well as their employers in the U.S. In many cases, the current visa renewal process results in substantial delay and, sometimes, the impossibility of international travel for urgent business or humanitarian reasons, especially for foreign nationals from countries such as India where there have been substantial backlogs and a lack of visa appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though the pilot program is limited in scope and duration, the State Department is expected to expand the pilot to new visa categories and countries of visa issuance in the future. For more information or counsel regarding this program, please contact a member of Holland & Knight's Immigration, Nationality and Consular Team.
Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem, and it should not be substituted for legal advice, which relies on a specific factual analysis. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult the authors of this publication, your Holland & Knight representative or other competent legal counsel.