The Department of State (DOS) will begin a pilot program for issuing nonimmigrant visas inside the United States on Jan. 29, 2024. The pilot program will be available to a narrowly defined class of nonimmigrants for a limited period. Once the proof of concept is demonstrated, the DOS plans to continue and expand the stateside visa processing program. When fully implemented, the stateside visa program should bring significant savings in both time and cost associated with the renewal of nonimmigrant visas.
Participation in the stateside visa pilot program is limited to nonimmigrants who have a valid H-1B petition, maintain H-1B status in the United States, previously provided fingerprints to the DOS, and have no ineligibility for a visa. Applicants must qualify for a waiver of an in-person interview and have no requirement to pay a visa issuance “reciprocity” fee. Finally, applicants eligible to participate in the pilot program include only those in possession of a current or expired H-1B visa issued by a U.S. consulate in Canada between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or a U.S. consulate in India between Feb. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021.
Applicants must be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview and be residing in the United States when filing a stateside visa application. Submitting evidence of temporary residence in the United States with the application is not required.
The DOS will accept applications to renew H-1B visas during a five-week period beginning Jan. 29, 2024. Only 4,000 applications will be accepted each week. These will include 2,000 each from applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued at a U.S. consulate in Canada or in India. Once the weekly limit is reached, the online application portal will be locked. Applicants unable to apply before a weekly total is reached may try again on any subsequent week during the pilot period.
Applications for the stateside visa processing pilot must be filed through an online portal: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domestic-renewal.html. Applicants will be directed to a preliminary set of questions to ascertain program eligibility. Applicants then will complete an online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, and pay the filing fee. Finally, applicants will be provided instructions to send their passport and supporting documents to the DOS.
Receiving a new H-1B visa does not extend nonimmigrant status within the United States. The visa only provides authorization to reapply for admission to the United States in H-1B status. Maintenance of status is determined by the Form I-94, admission record issued by the Department of Homeland Security. A Form I-94 may be issued by Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry or by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services following approval of an application to extend or change nonimmigrant status.
The DOS predicts that stateside visa processing may take approximately six-to-eight weeks and expedited processing will not be available. Therefore, persons with an urgent need for international travel will be better served by applying for an H-1B visa at a consulate abroad. If a nonimmigrant finds an urgent need to travel after applying for the pilot program, the application may be withdrawn. The passport will be returned to allow the individual to file a new application at a consulate abroad.