By: Richard Hanus, Esq.
Published – February 20, 2023
There used to be a time when a foreign national worker in the U.S. did not need to depart the country and appear at a U.S. consular post to renew their U.S. work visa stamp. Instead, that worker could send their foreign passport containing their expired work visa to a domestic U.S. Department of State office and within a period of weeks, the worker would receive back their passport with a renewed visa stamp. The U.S. Department of State recently announced a plan to reinstitute this program in the very near future.
As a matter of background, up until around 20 years ago, the U.S. Department of State had in place a program certain work visa holders could avail of this process. In 2004, that program came to an end. The plan to once again roll out this program will initially include foreign workers seeking to renew their H-1B and L visa stamps, and perhaps further expanded thereafter.
The reimplementation of a stateside visa stamp renewal process is win-win for all involved. For the U.S. Department of State, it means having overly burdened overseas consular post resources freed up to focus on reducing prohibitively long visa interview backlogs for other categories of applicants. For visa renewal applicants, it means foreign nationals can avoid the time and anxiety that comes with departing the U.S. to undergo a visa process fraught with uncertain timelines and results.
When is visa renewal needed or available under this program? First, those who have valid, current nonimmigrant status as reflected on their Form I-94 (as opposed to visa stamp validity), and simply seek to remain in the U.S. and with no plans to travel internationally, no action toward visa stamp renewal is required. Additionally, in this regard, an expired visa stamp is of no consequence to a foreign national’s lawful immigration status, as long as their I-94 is current.
For those needing to make an international trip and are eligible for stateside renewal, the applicant must be in current nonimmigrant visa status AND have previously entered the U.S. with a visa stamp in that same nonimmigrant visa category. Thus, for example, a foreign national who previously entered on their F-1 international student visa, but after graduation, changed status to H-1B worker, would not be eligible for the stateside visa renewal program. Furthermore, as stated, the reimplementation of the stateside reissuance program is set to be available only to those previously issued and entering on H-1B and L-1 visas.
Additional details regarding the reimplementation of this program will be reported on here as soon as they are available.
PUBLISHED February 20, 2023 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2023, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois