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Immigration Insider | December 2023

December 21, 2023

H-1B Cap Reached

On December 13, USCIS announced that it received enough H-1B petitions to reach the congressionally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap and the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption (master’s cap), for fiscal year 2024, meaning that a third lottery will not occur.

The next H-1B lottery entry period (for fiscal year 2025) will take place in March 2024. Regulations to improve the H-1B lottery process have been proposed, and we expect that they will be implemented in time for the new H-1B cycle. Kerr Russell will provide updates as these changes are finalized.

Stateside Visa Issuance

In early 2024, the Department of State will implement a pilot program to allow select applicants to renew passport visa stamps in the United States, as opposed to requiring individuals to travel and obtain these stamps at foreign consulates.

The program will be available from January 29, 2024 to April 1, 2024 for 20,000 individuals in H-1B status (not dependents) who obtained prior H-1B visas from consulates in India or Canada, and meet the following criteria:

  • Are not subject to a reciprocity fee;
  • Are eligible for an in-person interview waiver;
  • Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;
  • Have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, were most recently admitted to the U.S. in H-1B status, and are currently in H-1B status.

Beginning January 29, 2024, online applications can be submitted through the Department of State website. Each week, the DOS will release 2000 application slots each for those who received their most recent visa in Canada and India. Once the limit is reached, the portal will be locked until the following week. The site will guide applicants on the documentation to be provided and instructions regarding where to send it. DOS indicates that each applicant must provide:

  • A properly completed and electronically filed DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
  • One photograph (taken within the last six months)
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States, which is valid for at least six months beyond the visa application date, and contains a blank, unmarked page for placement of the visa foil.
  • An original or copy of the applicant’s current Form I-797, H-1B Approval Notice.
  • Copy of the applicant’s I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.

Generally, applicants are in possession of the documentation needed, or can easily prepare or retrieve it without assistance from Kerr Russell or their employer. The average processing time for return of the passport, with visa stamp, is expected to be 6-8 weeks. Once the pilot program is complete, the DOS will assess whether domestic visa renewals can be implemented permanently and the criteria expanded.