According to a recent report by Bloomberg Law the State Department is planning to launch a pilot program later this year offering stateside visa renewals for H-1B and other temporary visa holders. This means that it will be possible for visa applications to be made from inside the U.S. for certain specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa holders who are currently required to travel abroad to renew their visas. While no further details regarding the program are currently available, it will potentially streamline the visa renewal process for many temporary visa holders working in the U.S. who would otherwise be subject to long wait times for visa appointments at U.S. consular offices abroad. The program was discontinued in 2004, but travel restrictions and consular bottlenecks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to calls from immigration attorneys and the business community for its reinstatement, as the current process has created significant uncertainty and business disruption.
Which Visas Qualify?
Currently, the State Department plans to have H and L visa holders eligible for stateside renewal, with tentative plans for eventual expansion.
Are First-Time Applicants Eligible?
Yes. The benefits of stateside renewals would likely extend to first-time applicants who would otherwise have to seek appointments at U.S. consular offices.
When Will the Stateside Renewal Option Be Available?
The State Department has not announced a specific timeline for the program’s implementation. The agency said that part of the challenge to adding the stateside renewal option involves setting up a new consular division in Washington, D.C., which is a major endeavor. LTF will be providing further details as they become available.