- Pilot program for H-1B and L-1 to launch later this year, with hopes to expand thereafter.
- Will only include visa renewals, not new applications.
- Would remark return of practice discontinued in 2004.
The ongoing impact of COVID-19 remains evident in the challenge nonimmigrants face when attempting to secure a visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate abroad. Following months and months of travel restrictions, staffing shortages, and other COVID-19-generated impediments, and even taking into account the mail-in options available to many nonimmigrant classifications since January 2022, foreign nationals continue to encounter difficulties when required to obtain a visa stamp in their passport. For so many of these nonimmigrants – and especially visa holders who are Indian Citizens – this ongoing scarcity has made visits to their home countries unfeasible for almost three (3) years. And for nearly two (2) decades, the answer to one of the most common questions we field that could cure this problem – whether a nonimmigrant may renew their visa while in the United States – has been a resounding “no”; since 2004, in-country renewals have not been an option. Until now.
That is because the U.S. Department of State announced last week that it was intending to roll-out a pilot program for H-1B and L-1 visa holders to renew their visas without leaving the United States. Slated to begin later in 2023, the pilot program will, at first, only cover H-1B and L-1 visa holders, with plans to expand to additional nonimmigrant classifications thereafter. According to a U.S. Department of State official in a recent interview, permitting H-1B and L-1 visa holders to renew their visas stateside should alleviate consular workloads, thereby offering a path to reduce visa processing delays at a systemic level. Even more, this official confirmed the plight of H-1B and L-1 visa holders unable to visit home due to the ongoing lack of visa appointment availability as an animating principle behind the pilot program, an encouraging sign that we hope portends further expansion down the road.
We will keep a close eye on all updates regarding the timing and nature of the pilot program’s launch. Until then, visa processing will continue as usual. If you have any questions regarding visa processing, please do not hesitate to contact our office.