H1B visa renewal pilot program guide: Eligibility, how to apply and more
From eligibility criteria to required documents, here's everything you should know about the H-1B visa pilot program application process starting on January 29.
The application dates for the domestic H-1B Visa Renewal Pilot Program are trickling closer. Initially announced in December 2023 by the U.S., the renewal process will kick off on January 29. As a nonimmigrant visa allowing US corporations to employ foreign workers in occupations demanding technical expertise, the H-1B has been one of the most sought after work visas for Indian tech professionals. The renewal applications are restricted to certain noncitizens, read on to find out more about the eligibility criteria.
Application Dates for H1B Visa Renewal Pilot Program
As per the official notice sanctioned by the Department of State, applications for the pilot program will be accepted from January 29 to April 1, 2024. The window may close sooner too if the slots are filled before the first day of April.
The pilot's goal is to check the technical and operational abilities of the Department to resume visa renewals. Moreover, it will also help bring to attention the Department's efficacy in terms of the visa wait time reduction as the workload will be shifted to the domestic platform instead of being stationed overseas.
Read the official US government circular addressing the pilot program here
H1B Visa Pilot Program: Eligibility / Who can Apply
Only those applicants will be able to apply for the pilot program who meet the following requirements:
- Foreign nationals obtaining their H-1B visas from an Indian US consulate between February 1 and September 30, 2021. In addition to that, foreign nationals receiving the H-1B visa from a Canadian US consulate between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2023. Only applicants seeking to renew their H-1B visa will be permitted during the pilot program. No other visa classifications will be processed at this time. This limits the applications to Indians and Chinese born workers.
- These foreign nationals must not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee, also referred to as the reciprocity fee.
- They must be eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
- Applicants who've submitted ten fingerprints to the Department for a visa application previously.
- The prior visa must not be linked with a “clearance received” annotation.
- Applicants must not have visa ineligibility that requires a waiver prior to visa issuance.
- The applicant should have been most recently admitted to the US in H-1B status.
- Applicant still maintains H-1B status in the US currently.
- The period of authorized admission in H-1B status hasn't expired
- The applicant intends to reenter the US in H-1B status following a temporary period abroad.
H-1B Pilot Program: Where to Apply
Online applications will be accepted at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/domestic-renewal.html . A total of 4000 application slots will open on a weekly basis, starting January 29. Out of these slots, 2000 will be limited for applicants who'd previously issued H–1B visas from Mission Canada, and the other 2000 slots for those applicants whose visas were issued from Mission India. By the end of the application period, the Department will have rolled out approximately 20,000 applications.
In a weekly order, the application dates are as follows: January 29, February 5, 12, 19 and 26.
H-1B Pilot Program: Documents Required
The candidates applying for the H-1B visa renewal are required to submit the below mentioned documents for their applications to be considered:
- DS-160 barcode sheet for a completed and electronically filled form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
- Passport valid for travelling to the US; it should be valid for at least six months after the visa application date and contains at least two blank, unmarked page for the visa foil placement. A passport containing the most recently issued H-1B visa is recommended if it is not in the passport being presently used.
- Non-refundable and non-transferable $205.00 MRV fee is needed for the application to be processed. Can be paid via the online portal after the completion of form DS-160.
- One recently clicked photo (has to be taken within the last six months). It should meet the specifications listed at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/how-apply/photos.html
- A copy of current Form I-797
- A copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record
Initially, this entire process was facilitated by a US consulate situated abroad. Applicants would have to wait for quite a few weeks to get their passports back with the visa stamp. It wasn't an ideal procedure, and the uncertainty of further delays would often disrupt the foreign workers' schedules, in turn impacting their ties with the US employers too. Therefore, the latest development around the visa renewals is expected to work as a quick remedy whose scope and implementation will be further widened in the future.