U.S. State Department to Process Domestic Visa Renewals in Limited Pilot Program


Last month, the U.S. State Department announced that for the first time in nearly two decades, it will process domestic visa renewals for certain H-1B visa applicants as part of a pilot program. Beginning the week of January 29, 2024, the Department will launch this voluntary program for approximately 20,000 eligible participants who meet the requirements listed in the Federal Register.  

​Currently, the program will only service H-1B holders (not their dependents) to limit the scope of applicants during this initial trial period. According to the announcement, in 2004, the Department discontinued domestic renewal of non-diplomatic nonimmigrant visas primarily because of requirements resulting from the passage of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, including the requirement for biometric fingerprints. It also noted that “by designing and delivering services with a focus on both national security and user experience, the Department seeks to alleviate the uncertainty often experienced by U.S. companies that employ temporary workers requiring petition-based visas. The pilot program seeks to increase capacity in our more than 200 consular sections around the world to adjudicate other visa categories – specifically first-time travelers for business and tourism who require in-person interviews.”  

The aim with this pilot program is to alleviate some of the more routine visa processing and wait times at the consulates abroad. By reducing some of the consulate workload on these visa renewals, it can free up time for other cases at the consulates.  

It’s important to note that this does not pertain to a workers’ “status” or “work authorization” but the “visa” (travel document) in their passport. This stateside processing is intended to reduce the number of cases the U.S. consulates outside the country have to process and make it more convenient for the beneficiaries who travel internationally as they can obtain the visa within the United States before they travel. The U.S. State Department used to process visa renewals stateside (by mailing passports and documents to D.C.) but discontinued that practice in 2004 when fingerprinting became a requirement. Now it is resuming this practice for those who have already completed fingerprints and meet other requirements. 

The Department will accept applications the week of January 29, 2024. The application period will close when all application slots are filled or on April 1, 2024. After this initial tranche of applications, the Department will seek to expand the scope of this program to other temporary (nonimmigrant) visa categories, such as E-3, O-1, etc. For full details on the pilot program, please visit the Federal Register