State Department to Resume Domestic Visa Renewal Program
Bloomberg Law has reported that the U.S. Department of State intends to implement a pilot program this year that will allow certain nonimmigrants to renew their visas in the U.S., obviating the need to travel internationally to renew the visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.
A spokesperson for the State Department was quoted as indicating that stateside visa renewal will initially be offered to H and L visa holders, and may be expanded to other visa categories later. A specific timeline for implementation of the pilot program has not yet been announced.
The State Department previously offered stateside visa renewal, but stopped the practice in 2004 when additional biometrics requirements were introduced.
In 2022, the American Immigration Lawyers Association advocated for re-introducing a domestic visa renewal program to address inefficiencies and delays in visa issuance. Pandemic-related consular closures brought visa processing to a grinding halt, and significant backlogs ensued. The subsequent easing of travel restrictions led to an uptick in travel and increased demand for visa appointments, further compounding backlogs at the consulates.
Benefit to U.S. Employers and Nonimmigrant Workforce
Implementation of the stateside visa renewal pilot program will ease the demand for services at the U.S. consulates abroad, allowing consulates to allocate resources to other visa issuing priorities. But U.S. employers and their nonimmigrant workforce also stand to gain.
Domestic visa renewal will provide foreign nationals and their U.S. employers with greater predictability around international travel and workforce planning.
Currently foreign nationals must renew expired visas while abroad in order to gain readmission to the U.S. These individuals may be subject to significant delays in obtaining an appointment to secure a visa to return to the U.S. Additionally, after the application is lodged, the visa applicant may also be subject to significant processing delays at the consulates, including administrative processing, which can delay visa issuance by months. The result is that employees become stranded abroad, unable to resume their employment in the U.S. In some instances this results in loss of employment in the U.S. and significant workforce disruption for the U.S. employer.
With the re-introduction of stateside visa renewals, nonimmigrant workers can more readily maintain a valid visa in their passport. When urgent business or personal matters arise requiring unanticipated international travel, these individuals will be “travel ready” without the need to secure and attend a visa appointment while abroad, and their employers can be assured of their ability to return and resume their responsibilities in the U.S. without delay.
Gibney will continue monitor the implementation of the stateside visa renewal pilot program and will provide updates on the timing and protocols when available. For additional information, please contact your designated Gibney representative or email email@example.com.