US government officials have indicated that H-1B visa holders may soon be able to renew their visas within the United States. The announcement comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarks on his inaugural state visit to the country. As of 2022, nearly 73% of H-1B visa holders are Indian citizens.
According to a government official quoted by the Press Trust of India, the United States Department of State plans to launch a pilot program later this year, allowing domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas, including those for Indian nationals. The pilot program aims to expand to a broader pool of H-1 and L visa holders.
A spokesperson from the state department informed Reuters that the pilot would initially commence with a limited number of cases and gradually expand over the next one to two years.
While officials have briefed reporters about the pilot program, the US government has not yet made an official announcement regarding this new policy. The H-1B visa is a type of non-immigrant visa granted to individuals hired for specialised work that requires technical expertise. These visas are typically issued for a three-year period and can be renewed for an additional three years after the initial term expires.
Currently, H-1B workers are required to return to their home country to renew their visas at a US consulate, as the US government ceased the practice of in-country visa renewal in 2004, according to PTI.
However, there are indications of a forthcoming change that will allow visa renewal within the United States. This adjustment is expected to alleviate the workload on US embassies and consulates in India, which are already working to clear a backlog of visa processing. The backlog has intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in families being separated, as reported by Reuters.
A government official expressed optimism about the developments, noting that they would be beneficial for individuals in both India and the United States, as well as for businesses, according to PTI.