DOS Stateside H-1B Visa Renewal Pilot Program Starts January 29, 2024
The long-anticipated Department of State (DOS) Stateside Visa Renewal pilot program will begin on January 29, 2024 and end on April 1, 2024. The goal of the pilot is to test the agency’s technical and operational ability to resume domestic visa renewals for certain nonimmigrant visa categories and to study the program’s effect on reducing visa wait times worldwide. Participation is limited to principal H-1B applicants who, among other things:
- are seeking to renew an H-1B visa during the pilot phase (H-4 dependents are excluded from the pilot);
- are renewing a prior H-1B visa issued by Mission Canada or Mission India;
- are eligible for an in-person interview waiver;
- have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, were most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and are maintaining H-1B status in the United States; and
- qualify as someone whose period of authorized admission in H-1B status has not expired.
Contact us with questions about the pilot program.
DOS Expands Consular Officers’ Authority to Waive Interview for Certain Nonimmigrant Visa Applicants
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, consular officers have the discretion to waive the in-person interview for first-time H-2 visa applicants and for other nonimmigrant visa applicants who:
- were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification (unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa); and
- are applying within 48 months of the prior visa’s expiration date.
To be eligible for an interview waiver, applicants must also:
- apply in their country of nationality or residence;
- have never been refused a visa; and
- have no apparent or potential ineligibility.
Contact us with questions about interview waivers.
CBP Has Fully Implemented Stampless Entry at All U.S. Airports
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has stopped placing ink stamps in passports to document entry into the United States. Most foreign nationals must now rely solely upon their electronic I-94 to verify the authorized duration of stay, and use CBP travel history in conjunction with their own travel records as evidence of entries to and exit from the United States.
Because the system is not perfect and travelers continue to experience errors in the electronic travel history and I-94 records, it is important for foreign nationals to inspect the I-94 and travel history upon entrance to the United States, and work with CBP to make corrections quickly.
Contact us with questions about stampless entry.
DOS Visa Bulletin for January 2024 Shows Improvement
The January 2024 Visa Bulletin posted by the Department of State includes reduced (or improved) backlogs in the Employment-Based Preference Categories (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) across-the-board. While the improvements vary depending on category and country of birth, the backlog applicable to Indian nationals in the EB-1 category improved the most, decreasing by more than three years.
Contact us with questions related to backlogs in the Employment-Based Preference Categories.
USCIS Reaches FY2024 H-1B Cap
On Dec. 13, 2023, USCIS announced that it had received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated 85,000 H-1B visa regular cap and the 20,000 H-1B visa master’s cap for fiscal year (FY) 2024. USCIS will send non-selection notices to registrants through their online accounts over the next few days.
USCIS confirms that it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap, as well as petitions filed to:
- Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
- Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in additional H-1B positions.
Contact us with questions about H-1B visas.
USCIS Premium Processing Fee Will Increase
Starting on Feb. 24, 2024, the filing fee for the Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing will increase for some forms to adjust for inflation in accordance with the Consumer Price Index. Here are some examples of the increases:
- Form I-129 (for E, H, L, O, P, TN status) will increase from $2,500 to $2,805;
- Form I-140 (for Employment-Based immigrant visa categories) will increase from $2,500 to $2,805;
- Form I-765 (for employment authorization) will increase from $1,500 to $1,685.
Contact us with questions about USCIS fee increases.
Embassy in Madrid Announces New E-Visa Application Process
The U.S. Embassy recently announced a new E-visa application process (launched in late 2023) aimed at reducing E-visa processing times to 90 business days or less.
Applicants will continue to register at https://usvisa-info.com and pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. Under the new system, applicants must choose one of three options:
Option 1: I am the spouse or child of someone who already has a valid E-1 or E-2 visa.
Option 2: I am being added as an employee to a company already operating in the United States, and that company has other employees who have received E-1 or E-2 visas in the past.
Option 3: Neither of these options apply to me.
For Option 1 and Option 2, the appointment system will open automatically, allowing applicants to select an interview date. Families planning to attend the interview together can schedule their appointment as a group with the principal E-visa applicant. Each family member must complete their own Form DS-160 and pay the corresponding MRV fee.
Option 3 applies to companies applying for an E-visa for the first time and to visa renewals for owners or investors. Applicants in this category must be documentarily complete before scheduling an interview. The E-visa package must be submitted electronically to email@example.com, which provides instructions. After the E-Visa Unit reviews the application, applicants will receive an email instructing them to schedule an appointment or request additional information.
Contact with questions about E-visas.
Forbes Reports That Immigration Could Be Key to U.S.-China Competition
A December Forbes article categorizes the failure to address immigration at the recent Biden-Xi summit as a failure to address a “pivotal” issue. Though the United States will need foreign-born scientists and engineers to compete with China in the 21st century, the article’s author writes, many U.S. lawmakers have appeared hostile or indifferent to admitting and retaining high-skilled talent. By contrast, for many years the Chinese government has maintained policies to attract or lure back scientists and engineers. For example, the Chinese government recently initiated an effort known as “Qiming,” which offers international scientists large signing bonuses to work in China. Forbes included an interesting fact to support its argument: 83% of the people with Ph.Ds in computer and information sciences who perform research and development work in the United States are foreign born.
The Forbes article can be found here.