The U.S. Department of State has recently announced an exciting pilot program aimed at assessing the feasibility of domestic visa renewals for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. This innovative approach, starting January 29, 2024, and concluding on April 1, 2024, could significantly impact global visa wait times.
Who is Eligible?
The program targets specific H-1B visa holders. Eligibility criteria include:
• Renewal Window: Applicants renewing an H-1B visa during the pilot phase.
• Fee Waiver Status: Applicants who are exempt from paying the nonimmigrant visa issuance fee.
• Interview Waiver Eligibility: Applicants eligible for an interview waiver, commonly known as “dropbox.”
• Fingerprint Submission: Those who have previously submitted ten fingerprints to the Department of State.
• Clearance and Ineligibility: Absence of a “clearance received” annotation and no visa ineligibilities requiring a waiver.
• Valid H-1B Petition: Applicants must have an unexpired H-1B petition, most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and maintaining that status.
• Current H-1B Status Validity: Applicants must be within their valid period of authorized stay under H-1B status.
• Purpose of Return: Applicants should have plans to return to the United States in H-1B status following a temporary visit overseas.
Application Process and Limitations
Approximately 2,000 application slots will be released each week, divided equally between applicants with visas issued by Mission Canada and Mission India. The online application portal will lock once weekly limits are reached and reopen the following week. Applications must be submitted here.
What to Expect After Applying?
Upon determining eligibility, applicants will complete the electronic Form DS-160, pay the required fee, and send necessary documents to the Department of State.
If an application does not meet the pilot’s criteria, it will be refused under INA 221(g). Applicants in such cases need to reapply at a consular post abroad with a new fee.
Timeline and Final Steps
The Department of State anticipates a processing duration of approximately 6 to 8 weeks following the receipt of the complete application and necessary documents. The goal is to process all applications by May 1, 2024. It’s important to note that the program will not accept any requests for rush processing. Upon completion, the Department will dispatch all issued visas, passports, and other relevant documents back to the applicants, utilizing services such as USPS or other approved courier options.
This pilot program is a significant step towards addressing the global visa application backlog and demonstrates the Department of State’s commitment to maintaining strict standards while streamlining processes.
If you or your family members have any questions about how immigration and nationality laws in the United States may affect you, or if you want to access additional information about immigration and nationality laws in the United States or Canada, please do not hesitate to contact the immigration and nationality lawyers at NPZ Law Group. You can reach us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us at 201-670-0006 extension 104. We also invite you to visit our website at www.visaserve.com for more information.