The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), posted on October 17, 2023, the long-awaited proposal by the Department of State (DOS) to proceed with a pilot program to resume the renewal of nonimmigrant visas in the United States (US) for certain qualified non-citizens. It is expected that the program will commence in early 2024 and be limited to H-1B principals only (not dependents). In addition, H-1B principal applicants will have to be citizens of countries that are not required to pay an H-1B machine-readable visa (MRV) fee, which is referenced on the reciprocity schedule. Please see the end of this post for Attachment A regarding potential countries that will benefit. Finally, it appears that the initial pilot program will be limited to 20,000 applicants. We don’t know how these limited renewal applications will be apportioned or if the selection protocol will be first in – first out, for example.
It is disappointing that the proposed pilot will be limited to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category. Still, at least it is a start since the Stateside Visa Reissuance program was discontinued on July 16, 2004, over 19 years ago.
One of the significant benefits of the resurrection of the Stateside Visa Reissuance program will be to reduce global visa wait times for nonimmigrant visa appointments. Of course, the interview waiver option, which has applied to certain nonimmigrant visa applicants applying to renew visas in the same category within 48 months of the expiration of the prior visa issued to them, is set to expire at present on December 31, 2023. While DOS has indicated a desire to extend this policy, the fate of a possible extension depends on discussions between DOS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If the interview waiver option is not extended, a stateside renewal program’s benefits may be voided. Note that in fiscal year 2022, almost 50% of the nonimmigrant visas issued at US consular posts abroad used the interview waiver option.
In addition, in fiscal year 2022, 282,927 H visas were issued to Indian nationals, which is approximately 37% of all H visas issued. The White House issued a Fact Sheet on June 22, 2023, regarding the “Republic of India Official State Visit to the United States.” The Fact Sheet specifically stated that the DOS would launch a pilot “this year” to adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas, including for Indian nationals, who will no longer be required to leave the US for visa renewal at a consular post in eligible categories. The Fact Sheet also indicated that the DOS will implement this renewal program for an expanded pool of H-1B and L visa holders in 2024, with a goal to broaden the eligible nonimmigrant categories.
Domestic/Stateside Visa Reissuance Program Revival in early 2024?
Back in February of 2023, Julie Stufft, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services with the DOS, indicated that the Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) would launch a pilot program later in 2023 to restore a limited version of the Stateside Visa Reissuance program. The Stateside Visa Reissuance program is based on 22 CFR §41.111(b). The regulation allows the issuance of visas in the US at the discretion of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services and officers authorized to issue nonimmigrant visas to:
- Qualified nonimmigrants in the A, C-2, C-3, G, or NATO categories who are currently maintaining status and who intend to reenter the US in that status after a temporary absence abroad if –
- They have been lawfully admitted in that status or have, after admission, had their classification changed to that status; and
- Their period of authorized stay in the US has not expired.
- Nonimmigrants in the E, H, I, L, O, and P categories, who are currently maintaining status and who intend to reenter the US in that status after a temporary absence abroad, who –
- Present evidence that they were previously issued visas at a consular office abroad and were admitted to the US in the status they are currently maintaining; and
- Present evidence that their period of authorized admission has not expired.
The Stateside Visa Reissuance program has also been referred to as domestic revalidation, but this moniker creates confusion with the automatic visa revalidation regulation at 22 CFR §41.112(d). The visa revalidation program resurrects the use of expired visas for admission to the US in limited circumstances. The Stateside Visa Reissuance program is just that – a new visa is adjudicated and issued within the US by the BCA. As to terminology, the BCA issued a Final Rule effective on November 29, 1987, which eliminated the term “revalidation” of visas. In addition, the distinction between invalidation and revocation was eliminated. As a result of these changes, a visa could be revoked regardless of whether the basis for ineligibility arose before or after the visa issuance since the “revocation” and “invalidation” concepts were merged.
The Stateside Visa Reissuance program was discontinued on July 16, 2004, for the C, E, H, I, L, O, and P nonimmigrant categories as noted above in this article. The stated reason for the discontinuation was Section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act, which required the State Department to incorporate a biometric in every US visa issued after October 26, 2004. Of course, the use and retention of biometrics is now more robust. It will be interesting to see if the DOS requires any one-to-one confirmation process of retained fingerprints or facial recognition technology via a remote interview to address this potential concern regarding pilot implementation. DHS has just allowed the use of remote verification for qualifying E-Verify employers to verify identity for Form I-9 purposes. Certainly, this precedent should open the same door to the DOS in the resurrection of a more robust Stateside Renewal Program, and the DOS has been a leader in the use of facial recognition technology. In addition, on September 8, 2023, the DOS posted a notice of a Digital Visa Authorization (DVA) proof of concept. Apparently, the DVA process allows visa issuance without the use of a visa foil placed in an applicant’s passport. The concept is being tested on a few K-1 fiancé (e) visas, which are single-entry visas. Think about it – confirmation of identity using facial recognition via a remote brief interview and a digital visa on your phone!
The Stateside Visa Reissuance program ended its processing of A-2, G-5 and NATO-7 visas in the US in September of 2002. The Diplomatic Liaison Division continued to accept applications for issuance of A-1. A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, and NATO-6 categories. Later as of August 31, 2022, 22 CFR §41.111(b) was amended to add paragraph (b)(2), which codified a long-standing policy allowing children born in the US not subject to US jurisdiction, properly classifiable in the A, C-3, G, or NATO nonimmigrant categories and maintaining status, to be eligible for Stateside Visa Reissuance.  This existing remnant of the Stateside Reissuance Program does not require the payment of any Machine Readable Visa (MRV) application fee or Reciprocity Schedule-based visa issuance fee. The current process allows mail-in and in-person applications and indicates a processing time of a minimum of seven to ten business days, not counting the date of receipt of submission.
What were the caseloads under the Stateside Reissuance Program?
The caseload numbers for the fiscal years noted below were gathered from statistics shared in DOS Visa Office/ American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) national liaison minutes.
26555 H1B 14091 H4
What can we learn from the Stateside Visa Reissuance Program before its discontinuation in 2004?
In reviewing old liaison minutes from the AILA with the VO and my personal files from when we used this great option, the applications were submitted via mail and required the old DS-156 form to be provided. Of course, in the new pilot, you would expect the https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/ site to be used to submit a DS-160 electronically. Previously both the application fee and reciprocity fee were included in the application. The submission of fees transitioned to a St. Louis bank lockbox over time in addition to the applications. The processing time for the fee intake by the lock box was approximately three days. The processing times for applications ranged from five to ten weeks.
The State Reissuance Program applied to nonimmigrants in diplomatic visa categories as well as in the non-diplomatic visa categories of E, H, I, L, O, and P. The applicant’s nationality had to be the same as it was when the previous visa (requested for reissuance) was issued. The previous visa had to be in the same category as the one being requested for reissuance and could not have a remaining validity of more than 60 days. If the previous visa expired, the application for reissuance had to be submitted to VO within one year after the expiration date of the existing visa.
Any case that was not clearly approvable for reissuance could be rejected (returned) for processing overseas. Nowadays, we can presume that the visa application would still be considered as a denial, if rejected as not clearly approvable. Perhaps, there would be an option for a return instead of a denial to reduce the potential impact on the applicant, when the application is missing a required document. It will be interesting to see if something like the National Visa Center (NVC) portal for document upload and payment of fees might be used.
Updates were available initially as to the status of reissuance applications, but as the volume increased, those reports for pending stateside visa reissuance filings were discontinued. Now, we would hope the status might be posted on https://ceac.state.gov/ceac/ . The most common submission errors in the past often resulted from incorrect fee payments. When the reissuance applications became backlogged, applicants could always withdraw their request via letter or fax.
Back in 1997, the visa reissuance refusal rate was 12.79%. In October of 1998, the refusal rate was 12.32%. These rates though were lower because initial refusals were often overcome with the submission of additional evidence. In 1998, there were reported increases in the rejection of E visa reissuances due to investments appearing to be too small. In those circumstances, the applications were denied under §221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. The US Embassy in London and all US posts in Japan requested that the VO decline all reissuance applications for “start-up”/limited validity E visas and refer the applicants to their home country post. This policy of rejecting visa reissuance applications for E start-ups was apparently in place since 1992.
In February of 1997, H. Edward Odom, Chief of the Advisory Opinions Division for the Directorate of Visa Services for the DOS, indicated in a letter to Martin L. Rothstein that the DOS and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) agreed that an H-1B visa remains valid; if the visa holder’s original petition has not been revoked, even when the visa holder has a new employer via an approved I-797 notice.  Thus, the visa would still be valid for reissuance application. This position was confirmed in the VO/AILA liaison meeting on April 3, 1997.
During the VO/AILA liaison meeting in October of 2003 the DOS indicated that if the visa being submitted for reissuance consideration had an annotation of “Visas Mantis,” the application would be rejected since the applicant must be interviewed abroad. The Visas Eagle Mantis process was a no-response pre-check procedure that permitted a visa to be issued by a consular post to conclusion after a ten-working day suspense period. The consular post was not required to wait for a reply from the DOS (i.e., CLOK out). This procedure was allowed for all US government (USG)-sponsored visa applicants, including but not limited to US government agencies/entities such as the Department of Energy (DOE), a DOE-contracted national laboratory, USAID, USIA, the Department of Defense (DOD), DOD-contract agents, NASA, etc. The Visas Donkey Mantis procedure was a pre-check procedure that required a visa issuing post to await authorization by the DOS before it could process a case to conclusion. It was used for any visa applicant subject to INA §212(3)(A)(i)(ii), who did not qualify for the Visas Eagle Mantis procedure. We will have to wait and see if anyone requiring certain types of clearances will be allowed to participate in the Stateside Visa Reissuance pilot. We hope the program will expand further in 2024.
About the Author:
Kathleen Campbell Walker is chair of the Immigration Practice Group, based in El Paso, Texas. She is a past president (2007) and general counsel (2009) of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She began practicing immigration law in 1986. In 2014, Ms. Walker received the AILA Founder’s Award, given occasionally to the person or entity having the most substantial impact on immigration law or policy. She is board certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. In addition, she is recognized in Chambers USA (Band One), Chambers Global (Band One), International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and Best Lawyers in America. She is rated AV® Preeminent™ in Martindale-Hubbell®. She can be reached at 915-541-9360 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and her biography can be accessed here.
Attachment A –
H-1B Countries – No reciprocity fees – https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/Visa-Reciprocity-and-Civil-Documents-by-Country.html
H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Application Processing Fee – $205.00 applicable to all
(Selection of Countries with H-1B Reciprocity Fees – Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile [only H-1B1 has no fee], Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, etc. )
|Countries with No Reciprocity Fees for H-1B Visas (Oct. 2023)
|Antigua and Barbuda
|Bosnia and Herzegovina
|British Virgin Islands
|Central African Republic
|Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.)
|Turks and Caicos Islands
|United Arab Emirates
|Federated States of Micronesia
|Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
|Sao Tome and Principe
|Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
|Saint Kitts and Nevis
|Trinidad and Tobago
|Turks and Caicos Islands
|United Arab Emirates
|Virgin Islands, British
 See 69 Fed. Reg. at 35121 (June 23, 2004).
 See 52 Fed. Reg. 42590 (November 5, 1987) The author notes that Stephen K. Fischel, Chief of the Legislation and Regulations Division of Visa Services was listed as the contact for further information about the regulation. Mr. Fischel since passed away in June of 2008. He was an excellent lawyer and person, whose humor, intellect, wit, and reasonableness was a gift to all who engaged with him.
 See 69 Fed. Reg. at 35121 (June 23, 2004).
 See 88 Fed. Reg. 47749 (July 25, 2023).
 See 87 Fed. Reg. 53373 (August 31, 2022).
 This letter is available on ailalink.aila.org.
 See Clearance Procedures Reduced for Certain Cases, posted on AILA Infonet Doc. No. 99120673 (December 6, 1999), August 24, 1999 DOS Cable on participants in USG-sponsored programs who are under the export control exclusion of 212(a)(3)(A)(i)(II) are subject only to the Eagle Mantis clearance (10-day wait) as opposed to the Donkey Mantis (advisory opinion) clearance procedure.