After much anticipation, the State Department finally is launching a pilot program to allow H-1B visa renewals in the United States. That’s the good news. The other news is that it is available only to persons who previously received an H-1B visa from the U.S. consulate in Canada from January 1, 2020 to April 1, 2023 or India from February 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The goal of the pilot program is to evaluate the process for what the State Department describes as a representative sample of H-1B visa holders while working concurrently to expand stateside visa renewals to other categories.
The State Department will release 2,000 application slots per group (Canada and India, for 4,000 total slots per release) on January 29 and February 5, 12, 19, and 26, 2024. The application period will remain open until the earlier of when all 20,000 slots are filled or April 1, 2024. After acceptance into to the pilot program, applicants will need to follow the usual visa application process of preparing the DS-160 application, paying the visa fee, and submitting documents by mail.
If you want to participate in the pilot program, in addition to being in one of the two groups who received a visa in Canada or India, you need to meet the following criteria:
1. You are seeking to renew an H-1B visa;
2. You are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa reciprocity fee (this is normally paid at the consulate at the time of visa issuance; it is not required for citizens of Canada or India);
4. You are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;
5. You submitted ten fingerprints for a previous visa application;
6. Your prior visa does not include a ‘‘clearance received’’ annotation;
7. You do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;
8. You have an approved and unexpired H–1B petition (I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS);
9. You were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;
10. You are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States (still employed by your H-1B employer);
11. Your period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired (as noted on your I-94 Departure Record); and
12. You intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
You can apply online, beginning January 29, 2024, at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domesticrenewal.html. Once accepted, you will receive instructions for the next steps, including where to mail your application materials. The State Department’s announcement made it clear that there is no guarantee of visa issuance through the pilot program and that the visa application fee ($205) will not be refunded if your visa is refused.
Let’s hope that the pilot program is a success and that additional visa categories soon will become eligible for stateside renewals.