DOS Announces a New Pilot Program for US Visa Renewal Starting on January 29, 2024

The Department of State (DOS) just announced a significant development in US visa processing: Starting January 29, 2024, a pilot program for stateside visa renewal will commence, concluding on April 1, 2024. This program aims to streamline the visa renewal process for certain nonimmigrant categories and reduce global visa wait times.

Individuals affected by these changes should consider consulting a citizenship attorney in NYC for personalized advice. A citizenship attorney in NYCcan provide expert guidance on navigating the new program’s requirements, help with the preparation and submission of the necessary documents, and offer legal support in case of any complications during the application process.

Eligibility for the pilot program

The pilot program is open for voluntary participation and is specifically designed for principal H-1B applicants who meet the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be seeking to renew their H-1B visa within the pilot program’s timeframe, which excludes H-4 dependents.
  • The applicant’s prior H-1B visa must have been issued by either Mission Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or by Mission India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021.
  • The applicant should be exempt from paying any nonimmigrant visa issuance fees.
  • The applicant must be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
  • The applicant must have submitted ten fingerprints in connection with their previous visa application.
  • The applicant’s prior visa must not include a ‘clearance received’ annotation.
  • The applicant should not have any visa ineligibilities that would necessitate a waiver before issuance.
  • The applicant must have a valid and unexpired H-1B petition, must have been most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and must be currently maintaining their H-1B status in the United States.
  • The applicant must intend to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status following a brief stay outside the country.

The pilot focuses exclusively on H-1B principals, using data from Mission India and Mission Canada to assess the impact of domestic renewals on visa processing capabilities. By focusing on these two sources, the DOS hopes to gain valuable insights into the operational feasibility of conducting visa renewals within the US instead of the traditional process of renewing visas from outside the country.

Application period and process

The DOS will accept online applications starting January 29, 2024. Weekly application slots will be released, with a limit of 2,000 slots each for applicants with visas issued by Mission Canada and Mission India.

The dates for these releases are scheduled from January 29 to February 26, 2024. The application process concludes when all slots are filled or on April 1, 2024.

Applicants must select their consular post based on their last H-1B visa issuance and determine their eligibility through a series of questions.

Eligible candidates will complete the DS-160 form, pay the MRV fee, and receive instructions for document submission.

Note that MRV fees are non-refundable even if the application doesn’t qualify for the pilot.

Required Documentation

Applicants must provide:

  • A completed DS-160 form
  • A recent photograph meeting DOS specifications
  • A passport valid for at least six months beyond the application date with a blank page for visa placement
  • The current Form I-797 and I-94 Arrival-Departure Record

Additional evidence may be requested later in the process.

Processing and adjudication of applications

  • Applications will be processed in the order received, with no updates provided other than visa issuance, refusal, or application return.
  • Applicants can check their status online. The expected processing time is 6-8 weeks, with a commitment to complete all applications by May 1, 2024. Expedited processing requests will not be entertained, and applicants needing urgent travel may withdraw their applications.
  • Applications falling outside the pilot scope will be returned without a refund of the MRV fee. If an application is refused under INA 221(g), applicants may reapply abroad with a new fee.

Post-visa issuance and refusal scenarios

Once issued, visas and documents will be returned via mail or courier service.

It’s important to remember that visa issuance doesn’t extend nonimmigrant status or guarantee US entry. Applications not fitting the pilot’s scope or refused under INA 221(g) will be returned without a fee refund. Applicants must reapply overseas in such cases.

For applications missing documentation, DOS will provide specific instructions to remedy the deficiencies by April 15, 2024. No additional MRV fee is required if the necessary information is provided within the deadline.

Do you need detailed guidance and further information on how this pilot program might impact your situation? Speaking with a citizenship attorney in NYC. Berd & Klauss, with offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn, can be contacted at 212-461-7152 for expert legal assistance in these matters.