The United States will allow holders of H-1B visas to get their renewal stamped within the US on a pilot basis later this year, a report said on Friday, 10 February.
The pilot project, available to certain visa categories like H-1B and L1, will bring relief to tens of thousands of foreign professionals, particularly from India. The current rules do not allow for stamping of H1-B visas inside the US.
The facility was available for foreign workers in the US until 2004. However, after change of rules, visa holders must leave the US and get their H-1B extension stamped on their passport at a US consulate every three years. Even those travelling outside temporarily have to get their passport restamped outside the US before re-entering the country.
“We are working in earnest on plans to restart this service for certain petition-based non-immigrant visa (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,” a State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying by PTI.
“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 official reportedly said.
Existing rules state that holders of H1-B and L visas have to visit their home country and submit their visas, passports, and documents by way of a dropbox or interview for restamping.
As waiting lines for appointments at US missions across the world, especially in India, got longer, some people had to wait months for H1-B visa stamping.
The harrowing impact of this bureaucratic procedure were seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Indians faced unimaginable choices – to fly to India to attend to their elderly parents, perform cremations or keep their jobs in the US.
To address this bureaucratic obstacle, in September 2022, a presidential commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders approved a recommendation – the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should update its policy to fast track the visa process and allow for stamping of H1-B visas inside the US. (The Quint covered this issue in detail in its two-part series last year. You can read it here.)
The recommendation has now been accepted by US President Joe Biden and will be implemented on pilot basis this year.
The recommendation was moved by Indian American member of the commission, Ajay Jain Bhutoria. He is also working to reduce the long waits Indians face in procuring visitor visas to travel to the US since the pandemic.
A Bill - EAGLE Act 2022 - to address some of the issues being faced be H1-B visa holders and those in line for green card was introduced in the House of Representatives last year but was put on hold after facing opposition from some members.
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