US is preparing to resume “domestic visa revalidation” in some categories on a pilot basis with the aim of expanding it in the following several years, a move that might benefit tens of thousands of foreign tech workers on H-1B and L1 visas.
When fully implemented, the pilot initiative, which will be introduced later this year, will provide a great deal of relief for thousands of Indian tech experts working in the US.
Before 2004, some non-immigrant visa classifications, most notably the H-1B, allowing for renewal or stamping inside the US. After that, foreign tech professionals must leave the nation, usually to their home country, to renew these visas, especially those on H-1B, and get the H-1B extension stamped on their passports.
All H-1B visa holders must have the renewal dates on their passports stamped every time their visa is extended. If they want to leave the country and come back, they must do this. Re-stamping of H-1B visas is not now permitted in the US. Any US consulate can do a restamp.
Particularly at a time when the visa wait time is over 800 days or more than two years, this was a major nuisance for foreign guest workers as well as for their staff. The highly desired H-1B visas are granted for periods of three years.
The non-immigrant visa called H-1B allows US businesses to hire foreign nationals for specialised jobs that need theoretical or technical competence. It is essential to the hiring of tens of thousands of workers each year from nations like China and India by technology companies.
A representative for the State Department informed PTI, “We are working in earnest on plans to restart this service for certain petition-based NIV categories, and we hope to have a pilot up and running later this year. This would eliminate the need for these applicants to travel abroad to renew visas.”
For applicants who were physically present in the US and renewing a visa in several petition-based non-immigrant visas (NIV) categories, the State Department facilitated domestic visa revalidation up to 2004, the official added.
The State Department official in answer to a query said, “We cannot comment on how many visa holders would be initially eligible, but the pilot would begin with a small number of cases before scaling over the following 1–2 years.”
The Biden administration has made a number of moves in recent months to simplify the visa application process and lessen hassles.
Notably, the State Department appears to have followed through on this suggestion from the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders.
According to the current regulation, which went into effect in 2004, the process for renewing H1-B and L visas includes travelling home and submitting their passports, H1-B and L1 visas, and supporting documentation by dropbox or interview.
People sometimes receive no response after submitting all the required paperwork for an H1-B visa stamping and are left stuck in their home country for more than 2 years. The presidential commission had argued in one of its meetings last year that they should not return while their families are waiting for them to do so in the US.
The presidential commission recommended that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) permit the restamping of H1-B and L1 visas in the US on a motion made by commission member Ajay Jain Bhutoria of Silicon Valley.
It requested that the USCIS create a distinct division or organisation to manage the restamping of extended H1-B and L visas inside the US.
According to the committee, legal immigrants who are invited to work in the US to help US businesses and the economy have found the entire procedure to be extremely difficult.