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The US Department of State (“DoS”) announced a pilot program allowing nonimmigrant visa holders to send off their passports for domestic visa stamp renewal. Exact dates have not yet been announced, but the expectation is that this program would be launched later this year.
Nonimmigrants who had obtained an earlier visa stamp would be able, under this program, to remain in the US and request a renewal stamp of the same visa type without having to go abroad and apply at a consulate by simply sending their passport with the expired or expiring stamp and a current I-797 Approval, as well as applicable fees. They would then be able to remain in the US and go about their lives here while waiting for completion of this process – including any period of administrative processing.
This change would significantly reduce risk to the individual and their US employers of being stuck abroad longer than expected, and in fact would likely reduce the time the nonimmigrant would need to plan on being abroad for the next trip after a renewal approval.
USDOS had had a similar program in the past, but it was discontinued in 2004 for reasons that were never entirely clear. Having run such a program previously, it is curious why a pilot program is required before returning to full operation of this system.