The Department of State has announced that it will allow H-1B and L visa holders to renew their visas from within the United States later this year. Presently, temporary visa holders are required to travel abroad to renew their visa stamps at a U.S. Consulate, often facing long wait times, uncertainty about their return to the United States, and disruption to their employment in the United States. Wait times for visa appointments significantly increased during the pandemic and expedited appointments were only granted on a limited basis. In an effort to address these issues and the consular backlogs that resulted, the Department of State plans to restore stateside visa renewals in the U.S. at the end of this year. The practice of issuing stateside visas was discontinued in 2004 and its restoration is certainly a cause for celebration, although there are still many unknowns.
At this time, the Department of State announced that the pilot program will only apply to H-1B and L visa holders, including first time applicants and those who are renewing their visas. Whether or not it will be expanded to other visas is not yet known.
The exact timeline of the pilot program roll out remains unclear, although the Department of State indicated that it intends on implementing it later this year.
The Department of State has not yet announced where in the United States it will process stateside visa applications, but at a minimum the agency will be setting up a new consular division in Washington, D.C.
At this time, many other questions remain. How will stateside visa processing impact wait times for visa appointments abroad? Will dependents of H-1B and L visa holders also qualify for stateside processing? How will the wait time for stateside visa appointments compare to visa appointments at U.S. Consulates abroad? How will negative determinations made by the Department of State impact a visa holder’s underlying status in the U.S.? We will share updates on this new pilot program as it becomes available.