The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced a pilot program to resume domestic visa stamp renewal for qualified H-1B visa applicants who meet certain requirements. The notice of the pilot program was published in the Federal Register Dec. 21, 2023, after clearing review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The program will open Jan. 29, 2024, and close April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever occurs first. The pilot program will allow certain qualified individuals in H-1B status to receive an H-1B visa stamp in their valid passport in lieu of applying for the visa stamp at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.
The program will be open to an initial 20,000 H-1B visa applicants. The program will be limited to eligible foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa stamp from a U.S. consulate in India between Feb. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, and foreign nationals who received an H-1B visa stamp from a U.S. consulate in Canada between Jan. 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023. Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:
- They are the beneficiary of an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;
- They maintain H-1B status in the United States;
- Their period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired;
- Their most recent entry into the United States was in H-1B status;
- They are not subject to a reciprocity fee, based on country of citizenship;
- They are eligible for a waiver of the in-person visa interview requirement;
- They do not require a waiver of visa ineligibility;
- Their prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
- They submitted 10 fingerprints to the DOS during a previous visa application; and
- They intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
The pilot program will make 4,000 application slots available weekly on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 12, Feb. 19, and Feb. 26, 2024. Eligible applicants may apply online at the Department of State Domestic Renewal webpage by completing a questionnaire to confirm eligibility, and then completing the Form DS-160 electronic nonimmigrant visa application and paying the $205 fee. Once the fee is paid, applicants will receive instructions on the submission of required documents to the DOS. Applications are expected to be processed in six to eight weeks from the date the documents are received.
Other visa categories such as H-4 (dependents of H-1B principal applicants) are not eligible for the domestic renewal program. The DOS noted that processes to adjudicate additional visa categories will continue to develop concurrently with the pilot, but for the time being, only H-1B principal applicants who meet the above criteria are eligible to apply for the domestic visa renewal.