On December 21, the U.S. Department of State issued regulations with details of its pilot program for issuance of renewed H-1B visa stamps in the United States. The pilot program eliminates the need for applicants to obtain their visas overseas at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, partially reinstating the practice that existed before 2004.

We had previously reported that the regulations were under review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, part of the Office of Management and Budget. Now that the regulations have been issued, the pilot program will begin accepting applications on January 29.

Eligibility requirements, and procedures for participation in the pilot program

Under the pilot program, a maximum of 20,000 visas will be issued. The program will accept applications from January 29 through April 1, according to a specified weekly schedule. The pilot program has the following limitations:

  • It applies only to individuals who are renewing H-1B visas.

  • The H-1B visas for which renewal is sought must have been issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Canada (Mission Canada) between January 1, 2020, and April 1, 2023, or in India (Mission India) between February 1 and September 30, 2021.

H-4 dependents are excluded from the pilot program.

The regulations explain that the pilot program is limited to renewal of H-1B visas because renewal of other visa categories “created additional technical and operational challenges that cannot be resolved before the pilot launch date.” Regarding the limitation to visas issued by Canada or India during the specified time frames, the regulations state that the population of visa applicants from those nations “is sufficiently representative of the global population and visa issuances during the referenced periods provide enough cases to make the pilot results meaningful, without overwhelming available resources.”

In addition to the above limitations, H-1B renewal applicants must satisfy a number of other requirements to be eligible to participate in the pilot program (quoted from the regulations, with minor edits):

  • They must not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (reciprocity fee).

  • They must be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.

  • They must have submitted 10 fingerprints to the State Department in connection with the prior visa application.

  • The prior visa must not include a “clearance received” annotation.

  • They must not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver before issuance.

  • They must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.

  • They must have been most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status.

  • They must be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States.

  • The period of authorized admission in H-1B status must not have expired.

  • They must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.

According to the State Department, some of these eligibility requirements are intended to mitigate security concerns that could arise as a result of the pilot program. For example, the pilot program eliminates measures, such as fingerprint collection, that are normally undertaken as part of the overseas consular visa process but are not generally available in the United States.

Application timing and procedure

On a phased schedule beginning Monday, January 29, the State Department will begin accepting online applications at this web page. The Department will allocate approximately 4,000 application slots on each of the Mondays listed below. Half of those slots will be allocated to applicants with H-1B visas issued by Mission Canada, and the other half will be allocated to applicants with H-1B visas issued by Mission India:

  • January 29

  • February 5

  • February 12

  • February 19

  • February 26

Once the weekly limits for applications are received for each Mission, the online application portal will be locked until the next round of weekly slots is released. The application period for the pilot program will end “when all [20,000] application slots are filled, or on April 1, 2024, whichever comes first.”

The application process has some initial screening questions to determine an applicant’s eligibility. If eligible, applicants will submit online the customary Non-Immigrant Visa Application Form DS-160 and receive online instructions regarding how to pay the visa fee and where to send the passport and other required documents to the State Department.

According to the regulations, the average processing time for an application under the pilot program is expected to be 6-8 weeks from the time the Department receives a completed application and required documents.

The Department’s goal is to complete processing of all pilot program applications no later than May 1. Requests for expedited processing will not be considered.

If the Department determines that an application is ineligible for the pilot program, the application will be rejected. However, the applicant will still have the option of filing a new visa application at a consular post abroad, paying the visa fee, and meeting the other applicable requirements.

If a pilot program application omits certain documentation or information, and if the State Department determines that the omission can be corrected and that adjudication can occur before May 1, the Department may allow the applicant an opportunity to provide the omitted document or information. In this event, the Department would have to receive the omitted documents or information by April 15.


Although this pilot program is limited in time and scope, we hope that it will be expanded to other H-1B visa holders and potentially to other nonimmigrant visa categories.

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