In an effort to lessen wait times for travel to the United States, the State Department announced a new pilot program for an initially limited number of applicants to renew their visas without leaving the United States.
20,000 H-1B visa holders will now have the ability to renew their visas from within the U.S., beginning in January. The number is limited because the State Department wants to ensure the new system runs smoothly before they expand the ability to renew domestically to more people.
I Have an H-1B Visa, How Can I Renew it without Leaving the United States?
The White House's Office of Management and Budget is still reviewing the domestic H-1B renewal process, and no directive has been released yet, but a Federal Register Notice is expected to be issued at some point this December. That notice is expected to lay out how the initial pilot participants are selected.
If you are selected as part of the initial number of H-1B renewal applicants, you will likely be able to mail in your visa for renewal. If you are not part of that first 20,000 you will still need to get an appointment for a visa stamp at an embassy or consulate abroad. While some H-1B visa holders in the U.S. have luck getting visa renewal appointments at a closer embassy, such as in Canada, you may still need to travel farther for your appointment.
The ability for consular officers to waive embassy interviews for certain nonimmigrant visas, such as H-1Bs, is set to expire at the end of this year, but the State Department and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) are in discussions to extend the interview waiver. There is widespread recognition that the current interview waiver has helped both applicants and embassies, as it helps move forward interview backlogs for other visa applicants. Our office will continue to monitor the situation and update you as announcements are made about a new visa interview waiver.
If you have questions about the H-1B process or another immigration petition please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.