Renewal Program for H1-B and L-Visa Holders
- State Department to introduce domestic visa renewal program for H-1B and L visa holders, reducing overseas workload and addressing visa bottlenecks.
- The program is expected to help foreign workers save time and resources, and alleviate challenges caused by long wait times for visa appointments overseas during the pandemic.
The State Department is set to introduce a new pilot program later this year, aimed at offering visa renewal options in the United States for H-1B specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa holders, who currently have to travel abroad to renew their visas. The move is expected to reduce the burden on consular offices abroad and alleviate the challenges faced by foreign workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stateside renewal option, which was discontinued in 2004, will initially be available to H-1B and L visa holders, with a possibility for future expansion, according to Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for visa services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. This move is expected to address the visa bottlenecks that have caused disruptions for employers, particularly in India, which is the largest source of H-1B visa holders.
The H-1B visa is widely used in the technology industry and enables employers to hire foreign workers for two three-year periods, with the possibility of multiple extensions through an approved green card petition. L-1 visas, on the other hand, are designed for employers seeking to transfer managerial workers to the US from their overseas offices.
Restoring stateside visa renewals is expected to save foreign workers the need to leave the country to renew their visas and also reduce the backlog of visa appointments overseas. During the pandemic, many foreign workers were unable to return to the US due to long wait times for visa appointments, and the pilot program is expected to address this challenge.
The move has been welcomed by immigration lawyers and business groups, who have long called for a domestic renewal option to be introduced. The program is a significant step towards streamlining the visa renewal process and improving the efficiency of the US visa system.
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