On December 21, 2023, the Department of State published a Federal Register notice announcing the launch of the Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Program. This program will run from January 29, 2024 – April 1, 2024. 
 

Participation in this pilot is voluntary and limited to H-1B applicant(s) who(se): 

  • Are seeking to renew an H-1B visa during the pilot phase between January 29, 2024, and April 1, 2024 (H-4 dependents are excluded from the pilot); 
  • Are renewing a prior H-1B visa issued by a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in Canada (Mission Canada) with an issuance date between January 1, 2020 – April 1, 2023, or by a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in India (Mission India) with an issuance date from February 1, 2021 – through September 30, 2021; 
  • Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance (reciprocity) fee; 
  • Are eligible for an in-person interview waiver; 
  • Have submitted biometrics to DOS in connection with the prior visa application; 
  • Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation; 
  • Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to issuance; 
  • Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, were most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and are maintaining H-1B status in the U.S.; 
  • Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and 
  • Intend to re-enter the U.S. in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad. 

DOS will begin accepting online applications for this pilot beginning on January 29, 2024 and will release approximately 4,000 slots for qualifying applicants during each of the first 5 weeks of the pilot. 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 reapply by filing a new visa application at a consular post abroad with a new fee. 

According to DOS, the average processing time is expected to be 6-8 weeks from the time the passport and documents are received, and the agency intends to complete processing of all applications by no later than May 1, 2024. No expedite requests will be considered.  

Takeaway: This announcement of the initial stateside visa renewal pilot program is a hopeful first step towards reducing visa wait times worldwide. The scope of the pilot program is limited, however, as it applies only to H-1B applicants who were previously issued visas within specified dates by Mission Canada or Mission India. H-4 dependents are excluded. Eligible applicants may begin submitting their applications online on January 29, 2024 (via: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domestic-renewal.html).