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Department of State Starts Pilot Program for a Limited Few to Obtain H-1 Visas in the U.S.

The Department of State has announced a pilot program to resume domestic visa renewals for qualified H-1B non-immigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements. In short, this pilot program allows certain H-1 employees to obtain a new H-1 visa without having to leave the US and go to a US consulate. But note that the program ultimately does not apply to many people and only runs from 1/29/24 to 4/1/24.

Please also note the program only applies to certain H-1 employees who previously obtained an H-1 visa between 1/1/20 to 4/1/23 from US consulates in Canada and 1/1/20 to 4/1/23 from US consulates in India. 

  • The pilot program will accept applications from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever comes first.
  • Participation in the pilot program is voluntary.
  • Individuals who do not meet the requirements for participation in the pilot program, or those who choose not to participate in the pilot program, may continue to apply for visa renewal at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

There are several steps to apply for this pilot program:

  1. Select the country where your most recent H-1B visa was issued (Note: this initial pilot is limited to renewal of visas issued in India and Canada).  Then follow the online navigator tool to assess your qualifications for participation in the pilot.
  2. If you meet the requirements for participation, follow the instructions in the portal to complete and submit an Online Non-immigrant Visa Application (form DS-160).
  3. Use the online portal to pay the required, non-refundable, non-transferable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) application processing fee of $205.00.
  4. Follow the instructions on the portal to mail your passport and other required documents for processing.

Application slots will be released on the following entry period dates:

  • January 29, 2024
  • February 5, 2024 
  • February 12, 2024
  • February 19, 2024 
  • February 26, 2024


Participants in the pilot program will be limited to applicants who(se):

  • Seek to renew an H-1B non-immigrant visa only (no other visa classifications, including H-4 visas for dependent spouses and children, will be processed through this pilot program);
  • Prior H-1B visa that is being renewed was issued by U.S. Mission Canada with an issuance date of January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by U.S. Mission India, with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021; 
  • Are not subject to a non-immigrant visa issuance fee (commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”);
  • Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement.
  • Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;
  • Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
  • Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;
  • Were most recently admitted to the United States in H-1B status;
  • Are currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States;
  • Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition;  
  • Period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired; and 
  • Intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.


You will need to submit the following documents as part of the application process:

  • A passport containing the most recently issued H-1B visa. A DS-160 barcode sheet for a properly completed and electronically filed form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Non-refundable and non-transferable $205.00 MRV application processing fee, payable via the online portal after completing the form DS-160. 
  • One photograph (taken within the last six months), which meets the specifications at
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States, which is valid for at least six months beyond the visa application date, and contains at least two blank, unmarked pages for placement of a visa foil.
  • Copy of current Form I-797, Notice of Action.
  • Copy of Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record (available at or on the Form I-797).

How do I show that I intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad?

To qualify for participation in the pilot program, you must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.  You are not required to submit evidence of this intent with your application; however, the Department may request additional evidence of intent on a case-specific basis. 

May I pay a fee to expedite my application?

No. The Department will not expedite domestic visa renewal applications.  All applications will be handled on a strict first-received, first-processed basis.  If you have an urgent need to travel, you may choose to apply for your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

The Department is unable to accept reciprocity fees domestically. Nationals from countries with a reciprocity fee may not participate in the pilot.

To view current reciprocity information, go to the U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country information on the following web page:

As mentioned above, this program is very limited in duration and requires extremely specific documentation and information.  The procedure for application is all very detailed and each and every step must be completed quickly and in the proper order.

Should you need assistance with this pilot program, please contact David Swaim, Managing Partner, [email protected].