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Pilot Program Announced for Domestic Visa Renewals Including H-1B.

The State Department will launch a pilot program later this year to offer visa renewals in the U.S. for H-1B specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa holders who are currently required to travel abroad. Until 2004, some nonimmigrant visas could be renewed by mail, but this process was ended due to changes in national security laws.  The stateside renewal option will be available to H and L visa holders and could eventually be expanded to family members of H-1B and L-1 employees in H-4 and L-2 status.

Prior to the announcement of the program, foreign workers who traveled abroad couldn’t reenter the U.S. without a valid visa stamp. But long wait times for appointments during the pandemic meant many were stuck abroad for months, adding disruptions for employers and uncertainty for the visa holders. The recommendation for domestic visa revalidation was one of the suggestions made by the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. However, it took a long time to bring the program to fruition because a new consular division needed to be established in Washington, D.C. to make the program possible.

One of the biggest advantages of the program is that it will save those applicants from having to leave the country by getting their stamping done inside the U.S. Conversely, this option will reduce the workload and backlogs of consular offices abroad. While the pilot program will be narrow in scope, it could potentially help up to 500,000 Indian visa holders, according to some estimates.

The program could be especially beneficial for thousands of Indian tech workers, who receive the majority of H-1B visas, allowing employers to add foreign workers for two three-year periods, although workers can apply for multiple extensions with an approved green card petition. The largest share of L-1 visas are available for employers that want to transfer managerial workers to the US from overseas offices.

The State Department is working on plans to restart this service for certain petition-based nonimmigrant visa (NIV) categories, and the pilot would begin with a small number of cases before scaling up over the next 1-2 years.

This article, under no circumstances, acts as legal advice; therefore, for any immigration questions, please contact your Attorney or the Ahluwalia Law Offices, P.C. (Team ALO).

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