The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has sent a Federal Register notice for review by the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). This notice would create a pilot program for domestic visa renewals if approved. This pilot program had two previous announcements: the first earlier this year and the second in a statement from the White House on June 22, 2023.
Many have anticipated this program, which would allow beneficiaries to renew their visas in the United States. According to the statement, the DOS would launch the pilot in late 2023 for a limited number of participants. The hope is to expand the program to more H-1B and L visa holders through 2024. Such an expansion could extend to other visa categories if successful.
The DOS has taken the first step in easing the renewal process with this Federal Register notice: The Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens. However, the DOS has not disclosed any details on the pilot program to the public. This information will likely remain unknown until the Federal Register notice’s official publication, which also remains uncertain.
However, current reports indicate that the program will likely occur in early 2024 and only for H-1B visa holders. Many expect a small number of applicants to participate and to require similar requirements as the existing interview waiver program. Others speculate that only nationals of countries not subject to reciprocity fees will qualify.
Using a small pool of participants will allow the DOS to ensure that the pilot program functions as intended. It also enables the Department to test for issues, provide a comparison for the renewal process, and make changes to overcome unforeseen obstacles.
This pilot program could benefit foreign national workers and their employers. For example, removing the need for workers to travel outside of the U.S. to renew their visas would significantly improve employment and reduce expenses due to travel. It would also prevent the risk of delays and loss of jobs while waiting for the renewal process to complete.
Employers should remember that domestic renewals will not affect the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process. For example, they must reverify an employee’s work authorization if their employment authorization documents expire. This process ensures that the employee may continue working in the United States. One way to keep track of these requirements is to use an electronic I-9 management tool. It can guide personnel through the verification steps and offer E-Verify integration.
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