US to launch work visa renewal programme announced during PM Narendra Modi’s visit: What this means

US to launch work visa renewal programme announced during PM Narendra Modi’s visit: What this means

In a move that will benefit a significantly large number of Indian technology professionals, the US Department of State has announced a programme to address ongoing wait times for visa processing. Called the domestic H-1B renewal pilot programme, this will be the first time in nearly 20 years domestic visa renewalwill be offered. Currently, if a visa requires a stamp at an embassy or consulate abroad, the individual must travel to that location.Here are the details:
Why this is ‘good news’ for Indian IT pros
The introduction of a pilot programme allowing for domestic renewals of US work visas is expected to be beneficial for Indian technology professionals, helping them cut costs and streamline the renewal process. Incidentally, the US has made it clear that the domestic visa renewal programme is only for work visas.
The numbers
The upcoming pilot aims to address approximately 20,000 visa renewals, accounting for nearly a tenth of the estimated 583,420 H-1B visa holders. This relief is expected to ultimately impact over one million H-1B holders, a significantly large number of whom are Indians.
Timeline of the programme
The pilot programme is expected to start in December. Over a period of three months, beginning in December, the US State Department will be issuing 20,000 visas to foreign nationals who are already inside the country. This means that a limited number of H-1B specialty occupation workers will be able to renew their visas in the US as soon as January 2024, State Department officials announced.
Why this is ‘big news’
Visa holders currently wait an average of 130 days for a visa appointment in their home country, preventing international travel without renewing the visa every three years.
How H-1B holders will benefit most
The US government initiative is expected to primarily benefit current immigrant technology talent in the country. Eligible H-1B holders will have the option to renew their visas by mailing them to the US State Department, avoiding the need to travel outside the US and face uncertain wait times for appointments at US consular offices before returning.
Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services, told news agency PTI, “In India, the demand (for US visas) is still very high. The wait time of six, eight and 12 months is not what we need and (it is) not indicative of how we view India.” She added, “We want to make sure that Indian travellers can get appointments as quickly as possible. One way we are doing that is through the domestic visa renewal programme, which is focused very much on India. We are piloting that.”
The visa numbers to go up
“We will do 20,000 in the first group. The vast majority of those will be Indian nationals living in the US and we will expand as it goes on.
PM Modi on these visas
While the State Department is said to have been working on launching such a programme on a pilot basis for quite some time now, the plan was mentioned in the joint statement and announced by Modi during his address to the Indian diaspora at the Ronald Reagan Centre.

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