Important Announcement

The Department of State has shut down the Domestic Visa Pilot Program application window and is no longer accepting any new applications. If you need to renew an H-1B visa, you must now do so at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. If you have already submitted an application through this program and have any questions, please email DomesticVisaRenewals@state.gov.

Overview

The Department of State has announced a new pilot program to resume domestic visa renewals for qualified H-1B nonimmigrant applicants who meet specific criteria.

  • Applications for the pilot program will be accepted from January 29, 2024, until April 1, 2024, or until all available slots are filled, whichever comes first.
  • Participation in this program is entirely voluntary.
  • If you do not meet the eligibility criteria or prefer not to participate, you can still apply for visa renewal at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

There are several steps to apply for this pilot program:

  • Please select the country where your most recent H-1B visa was issued. (Note: this initial pilot program is currently limited to renewals of visas issued in India and Canada.) After that, use the online navigator tool to determine if you qualify for participation in the pilot.
  • If you qualify to participate, please follow the instructions on the portal to complete and submit the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (form DS-160).
  • Please use the online portal to pay the required $205.00 fee to process your Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) application. This fee is non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • Please follow the instructions on the portal to send your passport and the other necessary documents for processing.

The Department will offer up to 20,000 application slots during this limited pilot program. Around 2,000 slots will be available each week for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by the U.S. Mission in Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023. Additionally, another 2,000 slots per week will be allocated for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by the U.S. Mission in India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021.

Application slots will be released on the following entry period dates:

  • January 29, 2024
  • February 5, 2024
  • February 12, 2024
  • February 19, 2024
  • February 26, 2024

You can only apply through the portal linked below during the dates specified above. Applications will be processed in the order they are received until the weekly limit is reached. If you cannot apply on one date, you can try again on any remaining dates within the entry period. The application period will end once all slots are filled or on April 1, 2024, whichever comes first.

Am I Eligible For A Domestic Renewal?

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility for the domestic renewal program, the next step is to complete the DS-160 form, which is the application for a nonimmigrant visa. To get started, click on the link below. In the drop-down menu under “Select a location where you will be applying for this visa,” choose “U.S. – DOMESTIC.” This will allow you to begin your application.

Begin Your Application for a Domestic Renewal here

Frequently Asked Questiona and Answers

Participation in the pilot program will be limited to applicants who(se):

  • Only H-1B nonimmigrant visa renewals are being processed through this pilot program; other visa types, including H-4 visas for dependents, are not included.
  • The H-1B visa being renewed must have been issued by the U.S. Mission in Canada between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or by the U.S. Mission in India between February 1, 2021, and September 30, 2021.
  • Applicants must not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee, also known as a “reciprocity fee.”
  • Applicants must qualify for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
  • Applicants must have previously submitted ten fingerprints to the Department as part of a prior visa application.
  • The prior visa must not have a “clearance received” annotation.
  • Applicants must not have any visa ineligibility that requires a waiver before visa issuance.
  • Applicants must have most recently been admitted to the United States in H-1B status.
  • Applicants must currently be maintaining H-1B status in the United States.
  • Applicants must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
  • The authorized period of admission in H-1B status must not have expired.
  • Applicants must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

If you don’t meet the program’s participation requirements, including eligibility for an in-person interview waiver, you cannot apply for or receive a visa domestically. Instead, you will need to apply overseas.

Please note that the navigator tool used during the application can’t filter out all unqualified applicants. Suppose your application doesn’t meet the pilot participation requirements or is denied due to ineligibility for an interview waiver or other reasons identified during the review process. In that case, the MRV application processing fee will not be refunded.

You will need to submit the following documents as part of the application process:

  1. A DS-160 barcode sheet for a properly completed and electronically submitted DS-160 form, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  2. A valid passport for travel to the United States must be valid for at least six months beyond the visa application date and have at least two blank, unmarked pages for the visa foil. If the most recently issued H-1 B visa is not in the current passport, it’s recommended to bring a passport containing it.
  3. A non-refundable and non-transferable MRV application processing fee of $205.00, payable online after completing the DS-160 form.
  4. A photograph taken within the last six months meets the specifications outlined at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html.
  5. A copy of the current Form I-797, Notice of Action.
  6. A copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, is available at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home or on Form I-797.

Since the Department will not conduct in-person visa interviews within the United States, applicants looking to renew their visas domestically through the pilot program must qualify for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement under section 222(h) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). According to this requirement, applicants must reside in the United States to be eligible for domestic visa renewal.

To determine if you meet this residency requirement, the Department will review several pieces of information, including the “home address” listed on your DS-160 form, the “current residential U.S. address” on your Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker), the length of your employment in the United States, and your arrival and departure records. You do not need to submit additional proof of residence with your visa application. However, if required, the Department may request such evidence after reviewing your application. In this context, “residence” does not mean “lawful permanent resident” (LPR).

To be eligible for the pilot program, you need to plan on returning to the United States with an H-1B status after a temporary stay abroad. While you don’t need proof of this intention when you apply, please be aware that the Department might ask for additional evidence based on individual circumstances.

We estimate that the processing time will be six to eight weeks from the date the Department receives the applicant’s passport and other required documents.

You can withdraw your application and request the return of your passport through the online portal. However, if you withdraw your visa application while it is still being processed, it will be denied under INA Section 221(g). This applies even if you request your passport back for emergency travel before we have reviewed and processed your application. Please note that the MRV fee is non-refundable.

No, the Department will not expedite domestic visa renewal applications. All applications will be processed in the order they are received. If you urgently need to travel, you can apply for your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Original Source: Domestic Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas for Certain Applicants. 

Get comprehensive guidance and expert consultation on the H-1B nonimmigrant visa from the best H1B attorney. They provide in-depth assistance through every step of the H-1B application process, ensuring you understand all requirements, complete the necessary paperwork accurately, and maximize your chances of a successful application. Contact The Law Offices of Prashanthi Reddy, PLLC, to navigate the complexities of the H-1B visa, offering personalized support tailored to your unique situation.

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