Earlier this year, in an effort to reduce the significant backlogs of visa applications at U.S. Consulates abroad, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced that it was considering, for the first time in nearly 20 years, reimplementing stateside visa renewals for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. Initial reports indicated that the pilot program would be limited to certain H and L visa holders.
What We Know Now:
On October 17, 2023, after months of eager anticipation from foreign nationals and immigration practitioners alike, DOS issued a draft notice of the stateside renewal pilot program, which is now being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in compliance with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). While the details of the pilot remain confidential until the official release/publication by DOS, the program is expected to be rolled out in early 2024 and would begin by allowing eligible H-1B nonimmigrants to renew expired or expiring visas from within the United States (i.e., eliminating the cost and time associated with the current visa renewal process at U.S. Consulates abroad).
Although the full details and eligibility criteria will be outlined in the published version of the notice, it is our understanding that the program will likely:
• Be available to 20,000 applicants;
• Have similar eligibility requirements as the visa interview waiver program at U.S. Consulates abroad; and
• Be limited to nationals of countries that are not subject to visa reciprocity fees.
The draft proposed rule must now undergo review by the OMB, which is charged with reviewing proposed and draft final rules and developing and overseeing the implementation of government-wide policies. Pursuant to Executive Order 12866 “Regulatory Planning and Review,” OMB review is limited to 90 days, with a one-time option to extend for no more than 30 days. Once the OMB review is complete and provided that the rulemaking is approved, the rule can be published in the Federal Register for comment before taking legal effect.
We are closely monitoring the progress of the program and will provide additional details as they become available.
Please contact any member of the Dentons Immigration team if you have any questions regarding the above.