This is a follow up to our prior post on Domestic Visa Processing.
The Department of State has officially released the details of the long-anticipated domestic visa processing pilot program. The pilot program will be open starting on January 29, 2024, and will accept up to 20,000 applications, with applications accepted on a rolling basis. The system is set up to release approximately 4,000 application slots each week for the first 6 weeks of the program starting Monday, January 29, 2024. Once the weekly limit is reached, the system will be locked until the next set of slots are released following next week. The system will be open until April 1, 2024, or until all application slots are used, whichever comes first.
According to a notice published in the Federal Register on Thursday, December 21, 2023, to be eligible for domestic visa renewal, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- They are seeking to renew an H-1B visa (other visa categories are not eligible).
- They are renewing a visa issued by US Department of State officials in Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by US Department of State officials in India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021 (the key factors are where and when the visa was issued, not the H-1B visa holder’s nationality or the H-1B visa expiration date);
- They are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (also known as a “reciprocity fee”) based on their citizenship (Indian citizens are not subject to a reciprocity fee for H‑1B visas and will meet this requirement);
- They have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;
- They are eligible for a waiver of the in-person visa interview requirement (which usually applies to most people who have not been refused a visa in the past);
- Their visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
- They do not require a waiver of visa ineligibility;
- They have an approved and unexpired H–1B petition;
- They are currently maintaining H–1B status in the United States, were most recently admitted to the United States in H–1B status. and have a valid H-1B I-94; and
- They intend to reenter the United States in H–1B status after a temporary period abroad.
The application process will require individuals to complete a web-based self-assessment based on the criteria listed above. Applicants will then be guided to complete the standard DS-160 visa application form, pay a fee, and submit their passport and other required documents by mail.
Required documents will be limited to the DS-160 confirmation, a US passport-style photo, a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the application date, a copy of the applicant’s current I-797 approval notice, and a copy of the applicant’s most recent I-94 arrival-departure record.
This new program will make it easier for those in the US to renew their visas without time consuming, costly, and stressful international travel. It should also ease the burden on consulates as many applicants will be diverted to the domestic visa process, making it easier for those who must appear at consulates to get visa appointments. If the Pilot Program goes well, we expect the Department of State will expand eligibility to additional visa categories and countries of issuance in the future.