The U.S. State Department is set to launch a pilot program starting in January 2024 that will allow 20,000 H-1B workers to renew their H-1B visas in the U.S. by mail instead of having to travel to a U.S. Consulate abroad. The purpose of this program is to reduce the wait times that H-1B workers experience when they have to travel abroad to get a new H-1B visa in their passports because of the long wait times at the U.S. consulates in some countries. The agency wants to ensure this program will work before they decide to expand it.
When H-1B workers are granted H-1B visas by a U.S. consular officer, the visas have expiration dates. This visa is what allows H-1B workers who have processed at a U.S. consulate to enter the U.S. to work as an H-1B worker. When an employer wants to extend the H-1B worker’s status, they are able to file the extension in the U.S. and the worker can be granted an extension of their H-1B status, and they do not have to travel outside the U.S. to get a new H-1B visa if they have been granted an extension by USCIS, and they can continue working in H-1B status. However, if this same worker wants to travel outside the U.S. and the H-1B visa in their passport is no longer valid, the worker would have to travel to a U.S. consulate abroad to get a new H-1B visa, so they are able to reenter the U.S. after traveling abroad. This pilot program would allow these workers to remain in the U.S. to get the H-1B visa in their passports without having to leave.
The pilot program is undergoing review at the White House, and further details will be released in a Federal Register notice next month, including how they are going to determine who will fall into the initial 20,000 H-1B workers who would be able to renew their H-1B visas in the U.S.