Per a report from Bloomberg Law filed on February 9, the US State Department will soon be launching a pilot program that could allow H-1B and L-1 visa holders to renew their visas without leaving the United States; a service that was formerly available, but discontinued in 2004.
If the pilot program is implemented, H and L visa applicants will no longer be required to leave the country to renew their visas and endure long waits for a renewal appointment at US consulates abroad.
According to Bureau of Consular Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services Julie Stufft, the impetus for this change was brought on at least in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Stufft stated, “We all saw during the pandemic how difficult it was for these people to return to their home country and often not be able to get visa appointments to come back to their home, the United States. That’s what we’re trying to address initially with this.”
When Will Stateside H-1B Visa Renewal Be Available?
There currently is not a timeline for exactly when the pilot program will start, or when it could be fully implemented. Doing so will involve setting up an entirely new consular division in Washington, D.C., which will be a time-consuming undertaking. However, once the program is underway, there should be far shorter wait times for appointments. This will make it much easier for applicants to renew their visas, and to travel abroad.
Who Will Qualify for Stateside Visa Renewals?
As for now, the pilot program is expected to be available only to H and L visa holders. However, the program could be expanded in the future to include those holding other visas.
Undoubtedly the biggest beneficiary of stateside visa renewal options will be H-1B visa holders from India, which is currently the country that provides the bulk of the H-1B workforce to the USA.
More information about the implementation of this pilot program will be provided once it is available.
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