On November 28, 2023, the U.S. Department of State confirmed the launch of a pilot program for the domestic renewal of visas with a projected start date of January 2024. The pilot program would allow for 20,000 domestic H-1B visa renewals, meaning that foreign nationals who are living and working in the U.S. in H-1B status do not have to leave the U.S. to apply for or renew their visa. Currently, foreign nationals have to make an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and then travel abroad to apply for or renew their visas. With backlogs caused by both the pandemic and an increase in travel to the U.S., it can often take several weeks for a foreign national to secure a visa appointment abroad, leaving a significant amount of uncertainty for both the foreign national employees and their U.S. employers. The pilot program is part of the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to reduce these visa appointment backlogs and create a more efficient U.S. visa processing system. Although this is a new and welcomed announcement, it is not an entirely new policy – up until 2004, the U.S. Department of State allowed for the domestic renewal of certain visas. The details for the pilot program have not been announced but are expected to be included within an upcoming Federal Register notice, and the limited program should be operational in the new year. Other policies that the U.S. Department of State is reviewing in order to update its processes and address certain backlogs are waiving visa interviews for certain visa categories and transferring to paperless or digital visas.
Our employment law team will keep you updated as any other announcements are made. If you have questions about any immigration or employment law matters, please contact Kaitlin or a member of the HSB Employment Law practice team.