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US starts in-country H1B visa renewal drive for 20,000 applications

H1B workers, including Indian nationals, can begin applying to renew their visas without leaving the US, marking a significant change after nearly two decades. Up to 20,000 qualified non-immigrant workers can renew their H-1B visas domestically, reports ANI.

The announcement by the US 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 US.

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 US.

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 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’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 Monday.

“I am thrilled to see the announcement that the State Department has officially launched the Visa Stamping initiative in the USA today. This endeavor 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 US and contribute to the growth of our nation’s companies and economy,” Bhaturia added. This pilot is one of the recommendations presented by 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.
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 program to test out the operationality of the programme. If the pilot programme proves successful, the DOS has expressed its strong desire to expand the programme’s eligibility to other visa categories and individuals.

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