State Department to allow H-1B workers to renew their visas in the United States

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The U.S. State Department will launch a pilot program later this year that will allow H-1B work visa their holders to renew their visa in the United States, rather than having to travel to their country of origin.

The H-1B visa category has long been the gateway for qualified foreign employees to work in the United States for at least three years. Until now, renewing a visa has been a complex and frustrating ordeal, often requiring applicants to travel to a U.S. consulate abroad, resulting in significant expense and lengthy delays.

Eligible foreign workers will now be able to obtain visas without leaving the United States, reducing the risk of being stranded abroad due to administrative procedures, sometimes for months.

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The primary objective of the pilot program is to evaluate whether the policy change affects the availability of visa appointments worldwide. By reducing the need for in-person renewals at consulates abroad, this change is expected to alleviate backlogs and free up appointment slots for individuals seeking a U.S. work visa outside the United States.

The State Department plans to roll out the program in stages, starting with a limited number of visa applicants and gradually expanding it. But first, policy must go through the rulemaking process, starting with approval from the White House.

Immigration lawyers and employer groups have been strong advocates for reinstating domestic visa renewals. Long waiting times, particularly at Indian consular offices, are a major concern. Extended periods of absence from the United States have created disruptions for both employees and their employers.

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