Visa Revalidation to Commence in Washington DC this year
Back in the day, when I started practicing immigration law, some 29 years ago, and up until about 19 years ago, in other words, for the first ten years of my career, our firm was able to send foreign nationals passports to Washington DC and have the State Department revalidate an individual’s visa stamp. Believe it or not, the State Department is planning to reinstate this great system. If you already have an H-1b or L-1, it looks like you will be able to send your passport to Washington DC to have a stamp put in it and avoid travelling abroad.
In an effort to reduce the impact of significant visa application backlogs at U.S. consulates, the State Department plans to test a program that would permit certain H and L visa holders to revalidate their visas from within the United States rather than travel abroad to renew their visas at a U.S. consulate. According to a State Department official’s comments to Bloomberg Law, the visa revalidation pilot is expected later this year.
Immigration advocates have been urging the State Department to permit stateside revalidation as a means to alleviate the exceptionally lengthy visa application backlogs that developed at consulates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many consulates, especially India, remain severely backlogged.
Until Summer 2004, the State Department permitted certain nonimmigrant visa holders to renew their visas by mail with the agency’s Visa Office in Washington, D.C. To qualify for visa revalidation in the United States, applicants had to hold valid E, H, L, O, P, or certain other nonimmigrant statuses, have been previously issued a visa at a U.S. consulate, and have been admitted to the United States in the same status as that sought to be revalidated. Visas could be revalidated in the United States in the period beginning 60 days before and up to one year after expiration.
19 years ago, it was a popular option for foreign nationals whose home consulates had a high volume of applications and long processing backlogs. The program was terminated in 2004 because the State Department couldn’t collect biometrics as required by the laws after 9/11. We are excited about this news and will be following it this year.