The U.S. State Department has declared plans to launch a pilot program that will provide visa renewal options for H-1B specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa holders in the United States. The program, which is expected to begin later this year, will allow applicants to renew their visas within the country without having to travel abroad.
Visa Renewal Pilot Program
It is anticipated that restoring stateside visa renewals will improve the visa application process for foreign workers who have been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and help reduce the workload of consular offices abroad. In an interview with Bloomberg Law, Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, stated that restoring stateside visa renewals will help address the challenges foreign workers faced when attempting to return home during the pandemic.
Foreign workers had to wait a long time for visa appointments during the pandemic, leaving many stranded abroad for months. Workers will find it easier to renew their visas without having to leave the country. Thanks to the new program, which aims to eliminate these disruptions.
Tech Workers & Intra Company Employees
The H-1B and L-1 visa holders will be able to renew their visas in the United States. But there are plans to eventually make it available to other visa holders as well. Employers can hire foreign workers on H-1B visas for up to two three-year periods. And workers can apply for multiple extensions with a green card petition that has been approved. These visas are particularly popular in the tech industry. On the other hand, companies that want to bring managerial employees from overseas offices to the United States can apply for L-1 visas.
Immigration lawyers and business groups have been urging the State Department to address visa bottlenecks abroad. Particularly in India, the largest source of H-1B visa holders has welcomed the addition of the domestic renewal option. Foreign workers who travel abroad cannot re-enter the United States without a valid visa stamp. And during the pandemic, many were stuck abroad for months due to long appointment wait times.
Gov. Officials & Discussion
Although the agency had stated plans to pursue domestic renewals last year, little information regarding a possible timetable was provided. However, the State Department does not have to issue new regulations for the domestic processing option to be added. The primary challenge is setting up a new consular division in Washington, DC.
In general, it is expected that the new program will make it simpler for foreign workers to obtain visa renewals and improve the visa application procedure for both workers and employers. It will be interesting to see how the pilot program affects the US visa system and whether it leads similar initiatives in the future, as it is scheduled to begin later this year.