On October 17, 2023, the US Department of State (DOS) sent a Federal Register Notice to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review, proposing that certain H1-B candidates will not have to travel overseas to renew their visas. Sending a notice to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is a preliminary step before publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register.
While the rule has not been published yet, one can only speculate regarding the eligibility criteria and other details regarding the rule. The general consensus seems to indicate that this pilot program would start in early 2024 and will only be limited to H-1B Visa applicants who are not subject to reciprocity fees. Additionally, this pilot program would be a limited to only a specific number of applications and would serve as a test to iron out issues that may be identified before further expanding the program.
At this time, all non-immigrants (including H-1B visa applicants) have to apply at a US consulate abroad to obtain a visa stamp. This visa stamp allows them to travel back into the United States but in most cases, this process is costly, lengthy and burdensome and often leads to delays experienced by both the beneficiaries and the US employers. Once this pilot program is implemented and expanded, this should help nonimmigrants to obtain a visa prior to departing the US and should facilitate international travel.
We will continue to follow this and will provide an update once the notice has been published. At Pollak Immigration, we routinely advise individuals and US employers on issues related to international travel, including preparing and filing US visa applications at the consulates. If you are planning on traveling to or from the United States while in nonimmigrant status or visa, feel free to schedule a consultation so that we can discuss the right option for you.