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H-1B Pilot Program for Domestic Visas Runs Through April 1

H-1B Pilot Program for Domestic Visa s Runs Through April 1

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) launched a pilot program in late January, a program that will allow certain types of H-1B workers to renew their nonimmigrant visas domestically. The program only runs through April 1, so interested applicants should get their paperwork in as soon as possible.

Also note that the DOS is only accepting a limited number of applications. If the limit is reached prior to April 1, no further applications will be received. At the time of this writing, the program was only 30 days old. It appears as though the DOS is still taking applications at this time.

Under the program, only 20,000 H-1B visas will be issued. As with all things immigration related, applicants must meet minimum eligibility requirements to be considered. If you or one of your employees is interested in applying, Graham Adair’s business immigration attorneys would be happy to help guide the process.

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility requirements for the program are rather long and detailed. Here is our summary, in the simplest possible language:

  • Applicants must be seeking to renew an H-1B nonimmigrant visa only.
  • The visa being renewed must have been issued by either U.S. Mission Canada or U.S. Mission India.
  • The visa being renewed must have been issued between 01/01/20 and 04/01/23 (Canada) or 02/01/21 and 09/30/21 (India).
  • Applicants must not be subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee.
  • Applicants must be eligible for the in-person interview waiver.
  • Applicants must have submitted the appropriate fingerprints for the previous application.
  • The prior visa cannot include a ‘clearance received’ annotation.
  • There cannot be any visa ineligibility requiring a waiver.
  • Applicants must be among those most recently admitted to the U.S. under H-1B status.
  • Applicants must be currently maintaining H-1B status in the U.S.
  • Applicants must possess an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
  • An applicant’s authorized admission must not have yet expired.
  • Applicants must intend to reenter the U.S. under H-1B status after temporarily going abroad.

The DOS estimates that applications will be processed within 6-8 weeks from the date proper documentation is received by the Department. Note that application processing does not guarantee the issuance of an H-1B visa.

Applications may not be adjudicated if all the requirements are not met. Those sent back without adjudication are not subject to a refund of the MRV fee, so keep that in mind. Anyone whose application is returned without adjudication will not be issued a visa domestically. Proper steps will have to be taken to renew the applicant’s current visa under standard protocols.

Another Complicated Program

We wish we could say that the pilot program is easy to navigate. We can’t. We have yet another complicated program from the DOS, a program still designed with good intentions despite being difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, we have come to expect that from the federal government. Complications come with the territory.

From our perspective, it is all the more reason to work with an experienced business immigration attorney on such matters. Experienced attorneys are very familiar with the rules, regulations, paperwork, and deadlines. An experienced attorney is the most qualified person to advise an employer or immigrant worker trying to navigate visa renewal.

It will be interesting to see where the pilot program goes from here. If it is a success, it may become a permanent fixture in U.S. immigration. Otherwise, expect the program to go away as quickly as it was launched. We will keep an eye on things here at Graham Adair.

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