The State Department has announced that it intends to launch a pilot program offering visa renewals in the U.S. for H-1B specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa workers. Currently, these individuals must travel abroad to renew their visas. The State Department plans to establish the pilot program later this year. Domestic visa renewals have not occurred since the federal government discontinued them in 2004 in the wake of new security measures after the 09/11 attacks.
The pilot program could help reduce months of delays for foreign workers in their home countries and reduce backlogs at U.S. consulates abroad. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these problems and has caused significant disruptions for employers. The State Department hopes to solve some of these issues through the pilot program, particularly in India, the biggest source of H-1B workers.
Initially, the State Department will open the stateside visa renewal program to H and L visa holders. Eventually, the federal government hopes to expand the program to other types of visa holders. The program will require the State Department to establish a new consular division in Washington, D.C., which is a substantial undertaking. The application process, procedures, and timeline for implementing the pilot program remain unknown.
H-1B visa holders allow companies to hire foreign workers for two three-year periods and are particularly popular in the tech industry. These visa holders can also apply for multiple extensions with an approved green card petition. Employers use L-1 visas to transfer managerial workers to the U.S. to overseas offices.
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