NewsFlash! Details of Domestic Visa Renewal Program Released

The details of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) pilot program to resume renewals of H1B visas from within the United States have been released, and will be officially published in the Federal Register tomorrow. The program will begin accepting applications on January 29, 2024. Unfortunately, as detailed below, the requirements to qualify for the initial program are far more restrictive than anticipated.

Only Very Limited Group of H1B Applicants Will Qualify

To qualify for the pilot domestic visa renewal program, the applicant must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be seeking to renew an H1B visa (sometimes referred to as a visa “stamp” or “foil”). (Note that the program is limited solely to the principal H1B worker; H-4 dependents cannot use the pilot program.)
  • The prior visa must have been issued by Mission Canada (i.e., by a U.S. embassy or a U.S. consulate in Canada) with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.
  • The applicant is not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”). (Note that citizens of India are not subject to an H1B reciprocity fee.)
  • The applicant is eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
  • The applicant has submitted ten fingerprints to the DOS in connection with a previous visa application.
  • The prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation.
  • The applicant does not require a waiver prior to visa issuance.
  • The applicant has an approved and unexpired H1B petition.
  • The applicant was most recently admitted in H1B status.
  • The applicant is currently in valid H1B status.
  • The applicant’s period of authorized admission in H1B status has not expired.
  • The applicant intends to reenter the United States in H1B status after a temporary period abroad.

Application Process

Applications will be accepted through an online portal as of the posting this article, however, this portal was not yet operating at that time. According to the notice being published in the Federal Register, the online portal will walk applicants through the application process.

As previously noted, qualified applicants will be able to start applying for H1B domestic visa renewals beginning January 29, 2024. Presently, the pilot program is slated to issue a total allotment of 20,000 H1B visas. From these 20,000, the DOS notes that about 4,000 application slots will be released each week, with half going to H1B visa applicants whose most recent visas were issued by Mission Canada, and the other 2,000 slots going to applicants whose last visas were issued by Mission India.

Each week, once the 4,000 slots are used, the online portal will be locked until the new allotment is released. This will continue through February 26, 2024, when the last batch of 4,000 slots is scheduled to be released. If, by then, the full 20,000 visas are used, the pilot will close. If not, the program will continue until all the visas are used, or until April 1, 2024, whichever comes first.

Required Documents

If an H1B worker secures a slot to renew an H1B visa under the pilot program, the documents required are fairly basic. These documents include the following:

  • A completed DS-160
  • A passport-styled photograph
  • A valid passport
  • An original or copy of one’s current form I-797
  • An original or copy of one’s current form I-94

In addition, the applicant must pay the standard $205 MRV fee via the online portal. Instructions on where to send the passport and documents will be provided via the portal.


While it is disappointing that so few H1B workers will be eligible to use the pilot domestic visa renewal program, the expectation is that the eligibility criteria will be greatly expanded in the near future. In the meantime, the DOS is soliciting comments about the pilot program from all stakeholders.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.