Ryan Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC
401 Union Street, Suite 1500
Seattle, WA 98101-2668
206.464.4224
Ryan Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC
401 Union Street, Suite 1500
Seattle, WA 98101-2668
206.464.4224

Ryan Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC
401 Union Street, Suite 1500
Seattle, WA 98101-2668
206.464.4224

News & Articles

Department of State Publishes Additional Information Regarding Pilot Program to Resume Domestic Visa Renewals

Published on January 22, 2024

As the start of the Department of State’s Domestic Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas pilot program draws closer, additional information about the program has been published by the Department. As background, the pilot program will accept 4,000 applications on a weekly basis starting January 29, 2024, from H-1B workers who are currently maintaining H-1B status in the U.S., and who possess H-1B visas that have been issued by U.S. Mission Canada with an issuance date of January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023, or by U.S. Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. For additional details regarding the eligibility criteria for the pilot program application process, please see our previous post here. For further details on the program, please refer to the DOS FAQ.

To apply, H-1B visa applicants should take the following steps:

  1. Select the country where your most recent H-1B visa was issued (Note: this must be either India or Canada).
  2. Follow the online navigator tool to assess your qualifications for participation in the pilot.
  3. If you meet the requirements for participation, follow the instructions in the portal to complete and submit an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160).
  4. Use the online portal to pay the required, non-refundable, non-transferrable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) application processing fee of $205.00.
  5. Follow the instructions on the portal to mail your passport and other required documents, such as a passport-style photo, original or copy of your current Form I-797, Notice of Action, and Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, for processing.

Although the Domestic Renewal pilot program will allow many H-1B status holders to renew their H-1B visas without leaving the U.S., applicants should keep in mind some of the risks associated with the process:

  • The MRV fee of $205 is non-refundable and non-transferrable under any circumstances.
  • The Department of State has provided a navigator tool to help assess whether the applicant qualifies but warns the tool is not capable of screening out all unqualified applicants.  If found ineligible for the domestic visa renewal pilot program, the application will be returned unadjudicated or refused under INA §221(g). A refusal under INA §221(g) constitutes a denial of a visa and may disqualify a person from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). ESTA travelers with prior visa denials should mark “yes” for question F on the ESTA application form, “Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?”
  • Department of State expects processing times to be six to eight weeks from when the application is received, without an option to expedite the application. If there is unexpected urgent international travel, the visa applicant may withdraw and request the passport back via the online portal; however, withdrawing the visa application while it is pending adjudication, will result in a refusal under INA Section 221(g).

While the new domestic visa pilot program is limited in scope at this time, we hope that the program will expand if successful, allowing greater flexibility for all temporary visa holders. If you have questions about your eligibility for the H-1B visa through the domestic renewal pilot program, please contact any member of our Immigration Group.

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