U.S. kick-starts five-week H-1B visas renewal drive, to accept 20,000 applications

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H-1B workers, including Indian nationals, can begin applying to renew their visas without leaving the U.S., marking a significant change after nearly two decades. Up to 20,000 qualified nonimmigrant workers can renew their H-1B visas domestically.

The announcement by the U.S. Department of State on the pilot programme for in-country renewal of certain petition-based temporary work visas, including for Indian nationals, was made in June 2023, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. During the visit, PM Modi announced at an Indian-American community event in Washington that the H-1B visa renewal stamping was being conducted in the U.S.

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The joint statement released by the White House following the visit mentioned this development, indicating the commitment of both nations to streamline visa processes and facilitate the lives of temporary visa holders.

A total of 20,000 participants will be accepted for the pilot programme over the next five weeks, split equally between workers who recently received their H-1B specialty occupation visas at consulates in India and Canada. A website released by the State Department ahead of the pilot programme’s launch allowed visa holders to confirm their eligibility. Applicants could fill out a visa application form on the agency’s website last week, although they couldn’t be submitted until Jan. 29.

“I am thrilled to see the announcement that the State Department has officially launched the Visa Stamping initiative in the USA today. This endeavour aims to streamline and improve the visa process for legal immigrants, making it more efficient and less burdensome. This would eliminate the need for these applicants to travel abroad to renew visas,” Ajay Bhutoria, a prominent advocate for immigration issues, told ANI. “I believe this positive change will benefit thousands of the individuals invited to work in the U.S. and contribute to the growth of our nation’s companies and economy,” Mr. Bhaturia added.

Also read: US issued record 140K visas to Indian students last year: Official

This pilot programme is one of the recommendations presented by Mr. Bhutoria of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, which is now implemented by the State Department. The initiative for now is limited to only H-1B workers who meet the criteria outlined in December and excludes dependent visa holders like spouses and children on H-4 visas — a source of frustration that many workers expressed when eligibility details emerged. Mr. Bhutoria is also advocating for other important immigration reforms, including reducing the green card backlog. The DOS has indicated that the initial launch of this stateside visa renewal process will be a limited pilot programme to test out the operationality of the programme.

If the pilot programme proves successful, the DOS has expressed its strong desire to expand the program’s eligibility to other visa categories and individuals.

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