Foreign workers might be able to renew their visas in the U.S. within this year
After many years, H-1B workers are finally getting good news, they may be able to renew their visas in the United States. If the policy is implemented, a significant number of H and L visa holders will no longer have to fly overseas to obtain a new visa, making travel and business trip plans much easier and predictable.
While this is a very promising development, there is still a lot of uncertainty, so let's examine the news on a basic level.
Who may qualify?
Initially the pilot program will be for foreign nationals who need to renew their H-1B and L visas and those of their dependents (H4 and L2).
When will this policy be implemented?
This policy first came out of a Bloomberg Law interview with the U.S. State Department official. In the interview, the official said there are plans to launch a pilot program within the U.S. this year to allow eligible foreign nationals to renew their expiring visas within the U.S.
No specific date for implementation of the policy was mentioned in the interview, nor any specifics about how the program will be structured.
Why has this policy suddenly emerged?
Since the outbreak of COVID, visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad have been under extreme pressure. The policy, at its most fundamental, is intended to reduce the pressure, improving interview processing.
A similar policy existed prior to July 2004. Under the prior policy, visa holders in categories E, H, L, O, P, etc. were allowed to renew their visas within the United States if they were eligible, and in some cases via mail. However, due to the 9/11 attacks, and difficulties gathering biometric data, the U.S. Department of State terminated the policy in July 2004.
While the new policy will not likely be exactly like the former, the hope within the immigration community is for the new policy to improve processing times while also removing the uncertainty of visa renewals for thousands of foreign nationals contributing to the U.S. economy.
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