Those who hold H-1B visas from India or China will soon be able to renew them domestically, a welcome relief for those who currently must leave the country to renew their visas.
According to a State Department spokesperson, the department is planning to resume renewals of H and L visas under petition-based nonimmigrant work visa categories.
H-1B is a dual-purpose nonimmigrant visa. A foreign individual with this visa may be hired by a US corporation to work there temporarily. The first visa may be issued for up to 3 years with the option of an additional 3 years.
Later this year, the agency will launch a trial programme before expanding it to include all qualified visa holders.
“The Department of State is committed to safeguarding national security while facilitating legitimate travel to the United States,” the spokesperson said in an email.
“Timely visa processing for both immigrant and nonimmigrant travellers is essential to the U.S. economy and to the administration’s goal of family reunification.”
The State Department was required to collect biometric information on applicants under the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act passed by Congress in 2002.
An Institute for Progress thinks tank in Washington said the embassy and consulates were better places to collect biometric information. Nevertheless, a report by the institute recommends domestic re-issuance of petition-based visas, including H and L, and F (student) and J (exchange visitor) visas.
Lauding the plans, Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association said, “It provides a lot of certainty to foreign workers and their employers to get the visa in the country before they travel abroad,” she said.
According to Dalal-Dheini, many people were stranded abroad during the epidemic as they waited for appointments to apply for visas. According to her, there are still certain consulates abroad that are understaffed, and wait periods can be lengthy.
Foreign workers with H-1B visas are hoping President Joe Biden’s administration also will extend the visa grace period. A federal regulation issued in 2017 established the 60-day period, and the administration would probably have to issue a new regulation to extend it, she said.