Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get your U.S. Visa renewed inside of the United States without having to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad?
This may soon become a reality based on a new pilot program announced by the Department of State for certain workers renewing their visas.
Visa stamping refers to the process of renewing a U.S. visa for foreign nationals working in the United States in certain visa categories. Traditionally, foreign workers must return to their home country and visit their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to schedule an appointment and renew their U.S. visas. However, the vast majority of U.S. Embassies and Consulates have significant visa interview backlogs which delays the visa renewal process significantly and increases the visa backlog.
To provide relief for visa renewal applicants, the State Department recently announced the launch of a new pilot program that will allow a limited number of H-1B specialty occupation workers the opportunity to renew their visas from inside the United States, effectively decreasing work interruptions and such visa stamping delays.
Who qualifies for visa stamping inside the United States under the pilot program?
The State Department has announced that starting in January 2024, it will allow 20,000 H-1B visa holders the ability to renew their visas in the United States under the pilot program, without having to leave the United States.
Eligible participants are expected to be given the option to mail in their passports to a designated visa office for stamping. The State Department will then remove or paste over the existing H-1B visa foil stamp, replace it with a new one, and send passports back to applicants.
Only principal H-1B visa renewal applicants will qualify who are not subject to reciprocity fees. Dependents of H-1B visa holders are not expected to be included in the program.
A Federal Register notice is expected to be published before the end of the month that will include more details regarding pilot eligibility. A draft version of the notice is currently under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, entitled “Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens.”
The State Department is also rumored to announce the expansion of its interview waiver policy for certain temporary visa categories and offer a digital visa for travel to the United States. However, full details are not yet available regarding exactly who will qualify for interview waivers.
We will continue to monitor developments with respect to the rollout of the pilot program and will provide updates on this topic on our blog as additional information becomes available.
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