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January 2024 update: US Department of State Announces Pilot Program for Stateside H-1B Visa Renewals

On January 18, 2024, the Department of State published an online tool that H-1B visa applicants can use to determine if they are eligible for the stateside visa renewal pilot program. Over time, it is likely that the Department of State will expand eligibility. We expect the online tool for the program described below to be updated as the program expands.

Domestic Visa Renewal Eligibility Assessment

In December 2023, the US Department of State announced a pilot program for stateside renewal of certain visas. For the first time in nearly two decades, a limited number of H-1B nonimmigrants will be able to renew their visas from within the United States.

All nonimmigrant visas are currently issued by US Embassy and Consular officials outside of the United States. Beginning on January 29, 2024, the State Department will begin allowing certain nonimmigrants to renew their expired and expiring visas inside the United States. Applicants meeting the requirements of the program may submit an online application between January 29 and April 1, 2024. This is welcome news as visa processing at Consulates and Embassies abroad has become increasingly unpredictable and fraught with delays.

This is a pilot program that will be available on a very limited basis initially. However, the State Department has indicated a desire to expand the program after the pilot allows for the resolution of any operational issues.

This pilot program will allow for limited renewal of nonimmigrant visas in the United States. Eligibility will be limited to applicants who(se):

  1. are renewing H-1B visas (H-4 and other visa classifications are not part of the pilot program);
  2. prior H-1B visa being renewed was issued by either:
  3. Mission Canada (i.e., US Consular posts located in Canada) with an issuance date from January 1, 2020 through April 1, 2023 OR
  4. Mission India (i.e., US Consular posts located in India) with an issuance date of February 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021;
  5. are nationals of countries which are not subject to reciprocity fees for H-1B visas;
  6. are eligible for a waiver of the usual in-person interview requirement;
  7. have submitted ten fingerprints in connection with a previous visa application;
  8. prior H-1B visa does not contain a “clearance received” notation;
  9. does not have an ineligibility basis that requires a waiver prior to visa issuance;
  10. has an approved and valid H-1B petition;
  11. was most recently admitted to the US in H-1B status;
  12. is currently maintaining H-1B status in the US;
  13. period of authorized H-1B admission has not expired; and
  14. intends to reenter the US in H-1B status after temporary travel abroad. 

Beginning January 29, 2024, eligible applicants may submit an application online through the State Department website. The State Department will allow approximately 4,000 applications each week, with 2,000 for applicants whose prior H-1B visas were issued by Mission Canada, and another 2,000 for applicants whose prior H-1B visas were issued by Mission India. Once the application limit has been reached, the application portal will be locked until the next allotment of application slots are released based on the schedule. On each Monday in February, the website will reopen for new submissions. The application period for the program will end the earlier of when all available application slots have been filled, or on April 1, 2024.

Applicants will be asked to complete an online application including:

  • a self-assessment of eligibility for the pilot program;
  • a Form DS-160 online visa application;
  • payment of the $205 non-refundable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee; and
  • required documents, including: 
    • a properly completed, electronically filed Form DS-160;
    • one photograph meeting Department of State specifications;
    • original passport, valid for at least 6 months beyond the visa application date;
    • original or copy of current Form I-797 Notice of Action (H-1B approval notice);
    • original or copy of the applicant’s Form I-94 (available online here); and
    • fee payment confirmation. 

For guidance on completing the DS-160 visa application form, please visit our Immigration Resources page.

Processing time is expected to be approximately 6 to 8 weeks, with visaed passports returned to applicants via US postal service or courier. All documents must be submitted by April 15, 2024. The State Department aims to complete processing of all applications under this pilot program by the program’s conclusion date of May 1, 2024.

Prior to 2004, the State Department ran a similar program, allowing for H, L, O, I, E, and P visas to be renewed by mail through a State Department office in Washington, DC. Visa revalidation in the US was terminated in July 2004 due to the State Department’s inability to collect biometric data in the US as required by post-9/11 security enhancements.

The return of this program, and the ability of participants to secure a needed visa before departing the United States, will help alleviate the uncertainty associated with foreign travel for those who must secure new visas while abroad in order to return to the United States.

Please contact your Mintz immigration attorney with any questions. 


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Maryanne Kline

Practice Group Associate

Maryanne Kline is a Practice Group Associate at Mintz. Her practice focuses on US federal immigration law, with a concentration on business-based immigration issues. Maryanne counsels clients on issues related to hiring foreign nationals, executives, managers, and other workers.