It has recently been announced that The State Department will launch a pilot program later this year offering visa renewal options in the US for H-1B specialty occupation workers and other temporary visa holders who are currently required to travel abroad to obtain visa stamps in their passports. This practice, previously discontinued in 2004, will save those applicants from having to leave the country, and will reduce the workload of consular offices abroad where the offices have 1+ years worth of backlogs for nonimmigrant visa processing. The stateside renewal option will initially be available to H and L visa holders and will likely be expanded in the future.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and other business groups and lobbyists have been putting pressure on the State Department to add the domestic renewal option as a much needed measure to address visa stamping processing times abroad, especially in India, where the wait can last over one year and visa stamping appointments feel like impossible to come by. Foreign workers on H-1B status and other employment statuses, who travel abroad can’t reenter the US without a valid visa stamp, issued by a consulate or embassy abroad. The long wait times the last few years have made this increasingly difficult for foreign workers to travel abroad for personal or business reasons, impacting the worker’s personal and employment lives.
We expect this stateside renewal to initially be applicable to first-time visa applicants and visa renewal applicants. This is a great step forward for nonimmigrants working in the U.S right now and will increase efficiency and processing for immigrant visa appointments and interviews at the consulates and embassies abroad.