The Department of State (DOS) Issues Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the Pilot Program for Domestic H-1B Visa Renewals

The DOS issued guidance and released answers to some FAQs ahead of the domestic H-1B visa renewal pilot program. This pilot program is set to launch on January 29, 2024. Applications for H-1B visa renewals will be accepted between January 29, 2024 and April 1, 2024 – or until all application slots are filled up, whichever is sooner. DOS has clarified that individuals who do not meet the criteria for pilot program may continue to apply for the visa renewal at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Potential applicants can visit the DOS website to apply and participate in the pilot program. They will need to:
1. Select the country where their most recent H-1B visa was issued;
2. Check if they meet the requirements for participation;
3. Follow the instructions on the portal to complete and submit the DS-160 form and pay the visa application fee; and
4. Follow the instructions on the portal to mail in their passport and other required documents.
The DOS has announced that it will take in a maximum of 20,000 applications, with the application slots to be released in batches of 2,000 on January 29, February 5, February 12, February 19, and February 26.
Salient Features
  • The pilot program is being launched for applicants whose prior H-1B visa that is being renewed was 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.
  • The pilot program is strictly limited to those seeking to renew their H-1B visas and who were most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status. Therefore, no other visa classifications are currently eligible for this program, including H-4s, F-1s, or those who have subsequently changed their status from another visa classification to H-1B.
  • Since the DOS will not be conducting in-person interviews, applicants must be residents of the U.S. and qualify for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
  • Should applicants need their passports back for an emergency while their visa application is pending, the visa application will be considered refused under INA 221 (g) and the visa application fee will not be refunded.
  • The DOS has explained that there will be no expedite option available to expedite the visa application and applications will be handled on a first-received, first-processed basis.
  • If out-of-scope applications are submitted, the DOS will return the application without refunding the visa application fee. Therefore, applicants must be sure to check that their case qualifies for this pilot program when sending in their applications.
Applicants are encouraged to check their eligibility for this pilot program by using the online navigator tool provided by DOS. This online navigator tool can be found here.
For any questions or assistance regarding this updated policy guidance, please contact a Chugh LLP immigration attorney.

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