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The U.S. Department of State will launch a pilot program later this year that will allow H-1B work visa holders to renew their visas in the United States, rather than have to travel to their home countries.
The H-1B visa category has long been the gateway for skilled foreign employees to work in the U.S. for a minimum of three years. Until now, visa renewal has been a complex and frustrating ordeal, often requiring applicants to visit a U.S. consulate overseas, incurring substantial expenses and lengthy delays.
Eligible foreign workers will now be able to secure visa stamps without leaving the U.S., lowering the risk of getting stuck abroad due to administrative processing, sometimes for months on end.
The main objective of the pilot program is to assess whether the policy change affects the availability of visa appointments around the world. By reducing the need for in-person renewals at consulates abroad, it is anticipated that this change will mitigate backlogs and free up appointment slots for individuals seeking U.S. work visas outside of the U.S.
The State Department plans to roll out the program in phases, starting with a limited number of visa applicants and expanding gradually. But first the policy must navigate the rule-making process, beginning with White House approval.
Immigration lawyers and employer groups have been strong advocates for reinstating domestic visa renewals. The substantial wait times, especially at Indian consular offices, have been a major concern. The extended periods of absence from the U.S. have created disruptions for both employees and their employers.