The Department of State (DOS) intends to resume the renewal of H-1B nonimmigrant visas in the United States for certain applicants beginning with a pilot program in early 2024, and has sent its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for review. Currently, the State Department can only process visa applications at its embassies and consular posts abroad and does not offer a stateside option for visa issuance.
Although full details have not yet been released, according to reports, in its initial phase the stateside visa renewal program is expected to be limited to H-1B principal visa applicants (not dependents). There will be additional eligibility requirements for participation (for example, the applicant must be renewing a visa issued within a limited number of years before the renewal submission), and the program will be voluntary. Applicants will still have the option of obtaining visas abroad through regular processing.
The pilot program is expected to be limited to nationals of countries whose visas are not subject to reciprocity fees. India will be eligible for participation in the pilot program, as there is no applicable reciprocity fee. These fees vary in amount and are meant to equalize the cost of a visa for each country’s nationals with the fees charged by that country to U.S. nationals seeking comparable visas. Because the fees vary and must be refunded if a visa cannot be issued, including them in the pilot program could have delayed the rollout.
The program is intended to help reduce consular delays, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and have continued in certain locations. The pilot program will test the operational capacity of the stateside renewal program. Availability is expected to be capped at 20,000 applicants. If successful, the program will expand to other employment-based visa categories following its initial launch, although full implementation is likely to take some time.