The United States is set to initiate a pilot program for the domestic renewal of certain categories of H-1B visas in December, a move expected to benefit a significant number of Indian technology professionals, according to Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services. The program, announced during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June, aims to streamline the visa renewal process for foreign nationals already residing in the US.
Stufft explained that over a period of three months, starting in December, the State Department will issue 20,000 visas to foreign nationals already inside the country. The majority of these visas are expected to go to Indian nationals residing in the US. The pilot program is part of an effort to address the high demand for US visas in India and reduce wait times for appointments.
While the State Department has been working on launching such a program for some time, the formal announcement was made during Modi’s visit. The move has been welcomed by the Indian community in the US. The program is specifically for work visas and aims to allow individuals living long-term in the US to renew their visas without having to travel back to their home countries.
The program is described as a “huge undertaking,” and it is expected to benefit over one million H-1B visa holders, a significant portion of whom are Indians. The State Department plans to start small with a pilot of 20,000 cases in December, January, and February, with the intention of expanding to more categories of workers in the rest of 2024.
The domestic visa renewal program is seen as a significant step to alleviate burdens for legal immigrants and promote inclusivity in the immigration system. The move reflects ongoing efforts to make the visa application and renewal process more efficient and accessible for individuals already residing in the US.