The U.S. State Department (U.S. DOS) has taken a step toward resuming issuance of H-1B visa stamps from within the United States. It is anticipated that this could begin in early 2024 with a limited pilot program to test the operationality of stateside visa renewals.
Full details of the pilot program have not yet been released, but on October 17, 2023, U.S. DOS sent a Federal Register notice to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review to further the implementation process. The notice was entitled Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens. It is presumed that the full eligibility criteria will be set forth in this notice when published in the Federal Register.
For now, it is believed that the voluntary pilot program will:
- Be limited to H-1B principals only (i.e., at the outset, it will not include H-4 dependents nor any other nonimmigrants);
- Be limited to nationals of countries that are not subject to reciprocity fees (note that India would be included as an eligible country in the pilot program);
- Include eligibility requirements similar to interview waiver program requirements;
- Be limited to 20,000 applicants.
Stateside visa issuance would eliminate the need for eligible H-1B visa renewal applicants to travel abroad for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in order to renew an H-1B visa stamp. This would eliminate uncertainty for employers and employees alike as to when an H-1B employee could return to the U.S. to resume employment after travelling abroad. In turn, this would decrease the workload of over-worked embassy and consular personnel by having the H-1B visa renewal process completed stateside.
Due to the practical benefits of stateside visa renewals, it is hoped that the Stateside Visa Renewal pilot program will expand after the H-1B renewal pilot program concludes. And indeed, U.S. DOS has indicated its intention is to expand the issuance of stateside visa renewals.
To learn more about this topic, please contact your Fox Rothschild immigration attorney or one of the authors at email@example.com / 412-394-5540 or firstname.lastname@example.org / 412-391-2418.
Catherine Wadhwani is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. For more than 25 years, her practice has focused on business immigration law and compliance, primarily in the health care, general corporate and academic sectors. Ms. Wadhwani’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide. She is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office. Please contact Ms. Wadhwani at email@example.com or at 412-394-5540.
Mr. Harley is a Partner in the Immigration Practice Group at Fox Rothschild LLP. Mr. Harley’s practice covers the United States and Consulates worldwide. Mr. Harley is based in our Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania office. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 412-391-2418.