The Department of State (DOS) has officially initiated the long-anticipated stateside visa renewal pilot, scheduled to initiate on January 29, 2024, and conclude on April 1, 2024. The hope is that the program will have the potential to improve delays in consular processing. Presented below is an exhaustive explanation of the pilot program.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Participation is voluntary and is confined to principal H-1B applicants seeking visa renewal.
  • H-4 dependents are explicitly excluded from the pilot.
  • Limited to prior H-1B visas issued by Mission Canada (January 1, 2020 – April 1, 2023) or Mission India (February 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021).
  • Applicants must not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee and should be eligible for an in-person interview waiver.

Application Period:

  • Online applications will be entertained commencing January 29, 2024.
  • A weekly allocation of 2,000 application slots for each mission.
  • The application process will conclude upon the exhaustion of all slots or on April 1, 2024, whichever transpires earlier.

Application Process:

  • Applications are to be submitted through a dedicated website: DOS Visa Renewal Portal.
  • Applicants are required to select the consular post of their most recent H-1B visa issuance.
  • Eligibility determination is facilitated through a series of questions, followed by the completion of the electronic Form DS-160.
  • A non-refundable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee is mandatory.
  • Passports and accompanying documents are to be dispatched via the U.S Postal Service or an approved courier service to DOS.

Required Documentation:

  • A completed DS-160.
  • A recent photograph meeting stipulated specifications.
  • A passport with validity extending at least six months beyond the visa application date.
  • A copy of Form I-797, Notice of Action.
  • A copy of the I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.
  • Evidence of U.S. residency or international travel plans is not initially required.

Application Processing and Adjudication:

  • Applications will be processed in the order of receipt.
  • Status updates can be monitored via CEAC.
  • The estimated processing time is 6-8 weeks from receipt.
  • Requests for expedited processing will not be entertained.
  • Issued visas, passports, and pertinent documents will be returned through USPS or a designated courier service.

Visa Issuance:

  • Issued visas do not confer nonimmigrant status or serve as an extension of status.
  • Visa holders must seek admission at a U.S. port of entry post-overseas travel.

Application Returns and Refusals:

  • Ineligible applications will be returned without adjudication.
  • No MRV fee refunds will be issued for returned applications.
  • Refusals will be issued for ineligible applications under INA 221(g).

The DOS stateside visa renewal pilot attempts to assess technical and operational capabilities while potentially mitigating global visa wait times. The Immigration Law Center at BCC and Attorney Alfredo Estrada will continue to provide updates as the process unfolds.

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