Published on December 13, 2023
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that they will be initiating a U.S. stateside visa renewal program in early 2024. The details of the pilot program will be published in the Federal Register later this month. Over the last few years, the DOS has been trying to recover from the backlogs and delays created by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a press release, the DOS confirmed that between October 2022 through September 2023 (the 2023 federal fiscal year), the Department of State issued a near record level of nonimmigrant visas – more than 10 million globally, including 8 million business and tourist visitor visas. Additionally, in an effort to streamline the visa process, they also implemented interview waiver flexibilities for eligible nonimmigrants, which is set to expire on December 31, 2023. There has been no announcement to date as to whether this interview waiver program will be extended.
The pilot program is part of the U.S. Department of State’s continuing efforts to reduce visa appointment backlogs and create a more effective U.S. visa processing system. The program will be limited and is expected to start in January 2024. Currently, it is reported that the domestic visa program may include the following criteria:
- Be available only for H-1B principals currently living and working in the U.S. in valid H-1B status;
- Be similar to the interview waiver program and require applicants to mail-in their passports for issuance of the visa stamp;
- Be initially limited to 20,000 applicants; and
- Be voluntary.
The State Department plans to limit the program at first to test out its operability and expand it after potential issues have been addressed, but if successful it may expand to include other employment-based visa categories. This program could provide much needed relief for individuals who are anxious to travel for business or personal needs, but who are facing long wait-times for visa appointments at Consulates abroad.
The Ryan Swanson Immigration attorneys continue to monitor for additional information released relating to the domestic visa program. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or for immigration support.