H1B Visa Renewal In USA – $205 fee – Rules, Form 221g, Denial?

H1B visa renewal in USA to start in Jan 2024. H4 dependents not eligible. Form 221g may be issued even after USCIS approval. Visa can be denied.

Written by Anil Gupta
  Anil Gupta    Updated 29 Jan, 24


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H1B visa renewal without traveling outside the USA is going to be available between 29 Jan 2024 to 1 April 2024 within the USA.

The visa renewal, form 221g, or denial within the USA should have the same rules as they have when you travel outside the US.

The major benefit that I foresee is the ability to keep staying in the USA even if the visa renewal is denied, which is not possible if you apply at the US embassy outside the US.

How to Apply

The application can be submitted for H1B visa renewal within the USA at this DOS website. You will be required to fill out the DS-160 form separately.

  1. Fill DS160: Fill DS–160 form online by selecting “U.S.-DOMESTIC” as your location.
  2. Fee payment:
    • Fee payment has to be done on the US Travel Docs website (for Indians, this is the website).
    • Create a log-in on the US Travel Docs website if do not have one already.
    • Pay the fee as per the visa.
  3. Schedule appointment:
    • Even though visa stamping in the USA does not need any physical interview, the process requires you to schedule an appointment.
    • Select ‘Washington DC‘ as your visa ‘post’ on the US Travel Docs website and then print the appointment letter.
  4. Prepaid Courier Label:
    • Three days before the appointment date, you will receive an email containing instructions for the document submission process.
    • The email will include a prepaid courier airway bill that should be carried along with the documents to the FedEx courier office for submission.
    • Once submitted to FedEx, your application will be sent to Washington DC.
  5. Passport return: Passports will be returned via FedEx mail in both cases: Visa issued or not issued.

20k slots are being opened in the pilot phase and 4000 slots will be opened on these dates:

  • January 29, 2024
  • February 5, 12, 19, and 26 (all in 2024)

Out of 4000 slots, 2k will be for previous visas issued in Canada, and the rest 2k for visas issued in India.

It’s a good start keeping in mind the trouble people face in booking appointments with the USA Travel Docs website, especially the Indian version which is riddled with software bugs.

Visa Renewal Rules (Pilot program)

  1. Should be an H1B visa renewal
  2. Previous H1B visa stamp (expired or unexpired) should have been issued by
    • US Embassy in Canada between 1 Jan 2020 to 1 Apr 2023 OR
    • US Embassy in India between 1 Feb 2021 to 30 Sep 2021
  3. Eligible for dropbox
  4. Must be residing in the US at the time of application
    • Your visa can be denied if you leave the US before the application reaches a result
    • No proof of residence is required
  5. Have an approved and valid H1B petition from USCIS (form i797)
    • This can be an H1B transfer, change of status, amendment, or an extension approval.
  6. Most recent valid i94 shows status as “H1B”
    • If you changed your status to non-H1B, or your most recent i94 shows any other status, then you are not eligible.

The eligibility criteria to apply for H1B visa renewal within the USA are quite restricted for the pilot phase.

You can use our app to see if you are eligible for visa renewal in the USA.



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It is expected that the previous visa issuance country and the date range will be removed later.

Documents required

  1. One Photo (2×2) size
  2. DS-160
  3. Original valid passport (Valid for at least the next 6 months from the date of application)
  4. H1B valid unexpired i797 (original or color copy)
  5. H1B valid unexpired i94

The document mail address will be shared by DOS online in their portal once you have submitted your application.

You can mail by USPS, UPS, or FedEx as per your choice.

All your documents will be returned to you with your original passport as usual.

Fee

The non-refundable fee is $205 and can be paid by debit or credit card online on the DOS portal.

If you do not qualify for the Dropbox separately, and you still apply for the visa, DOS will reject your application and the fee will not be refunded.

Processing Time

The estimated processing time is 6-8 weeks. There is no premium processing available.

DOS plans to finish processing all applications received during the pilot phase by 1 May 2024.

You will be able to check the application status on the CEAC website, as you do when you apply with the US embassy outside the USA.

FAQ

Are H4 dependents eligible for visa renewal in the USA?

As per current information, the H4 dependents will not be eligible for their visa renewal.

Only H1B primary applicants are included in the pilot program that the US government is starting.

How many H1B visas are available for renewal in the pilot program?

The pilot program has reserved 20k visa application slots.

This may be increased later based on the pilot program’s results.

Can a form 221g be issued within the USA as the US embassy issues it?

Yes, DOS will issue form 221g to do administrative processing before the visa is issued.

You will be given enough time to submit the requested documents.

Can the visa renewal be denied within the US even if the H1B petition is approved?

Yes, the visa renewal can be denied even if the H1B petition is already approved by USCIS.

Can I keep staying in the USA even if my visa is denied but the USCIS H1B petition is valid?

Yes, you should be able to keep staying in the US even if your visa is denied or delayed if you have a valid i94.

When USCIS approves your H1B extension, transfer, change of status, or amendment with a new i94, it comes with a new extended validity to stay.

Note that your i94 governs the stay within the US while you are physically in the country. The visa stamp in the passport is only needed to enter the USA.

Hence, even if your visa stamp is denied by DOS while you are physically in the US with a longer i94 expiry, you can keep staying in the USA without issues.

Can I keep working as H1B even if the visa stamp renewal is denied?

You should be able to keep working and staying in the USA if you have a valid H1B i94 even if your visa stamp renewal is denied.



Can I apply for an H1B extension within the USA if my visa is denied?

Yes, an H1B extension can be applied with USCIS even if your H1B visa stamp renewal is denied.

What if I am eligible for Dropbox, but DOS wants an in-person interview after I submit the domestic visa renewal application?

If DOS wants an in-person interview after you have submitted your application, they will deny your domestic visa renewal application.

You can then apply again at any US embassy outside the US. You may become ineligible for Dropbox there as your most recent visa application would be considered “denied”.

They will deny the visa without prejudice, which means that it should not affect your future visa application decisions.

Will domestic visa renewal update the i94 or extend the i94?

No, the i94 will not be updated with visa renewal.

I was on an F1 visa, and I have my H1B approved, and was not stamped yet. Will my H1B stamping come under visa renewal?

You are not eligible for the H1B visa domestic renewal pilot program.

Is first-time H1B visa stamping within the USA (domestically) eligible?

No, the first-time H1B visa stamping is not eligible for US visa renewal within the USA program.

I received form 221g earlier and have clearance received marked on my previous visa stamp in my passport. Am I eligible?

You are not eligible for stateside visa renewal at this time.

Similarly, people who received the DS-5535 form (instead of form 221g) will be ineligible too.

Can I get DS-5535 when I apply for visa renewal in the USA?

Yes, they can issue DS-5535.

More Questions?

Add them in the comments or send them on Twitter @am22tech and we will try to answer to the best of our knowledge. Note that this is not a legal advice.



Author

Written by Anil Gupta
  Anil Gupta  
Mentor | Immigration and Finance Journalism | Humor | Opinions are my own