Early in February, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Visa Services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Julie Stuff told Bloomberg News that United States Department of State (USDOS) is preparing to introduce a pilot program to restore domestic visa revalidation for H-1B and L-1 non-immigration visa types. This means that H-1B and L-1 visa holders will not have to travel overseas to get visas placed in their passports at US. Consulates. Instead they can apply for visa renewal from the United States after receiving their renewal approval notice from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). More details will be announced later in the year.
This is a huge relief for many nonimmigrant workers and the business that hire them in the United State as they will no longer have to incur costs and delays in travelling overseas to get the visas placed in their passports. This program is not new. It would bring back the practice that existed but was discontinued back in 2004. Although this pilot program is limited to H-1B and L-1 visas for now, it may be expanded to other nonimmigrant visa categories such as E, O, and P, later on.
The COVID pandemic have caused serious backlogs and delays with visa renewal interview appointments at U.S. Embassies and/or Consulates aboard, especially for offices in India where the majority of these visa holders come from. Some workers have claimed to have waited more than a year to get their visa appointments. Many workers and businesses had to risk workers getting stuck in their home country awaiting visa interviews. To address these bottlenecks, many immigration attorneys, advocacy groups, and businesses have pushed State Department to bring back state-side visa renewal as an option. The State Department stated last year that they would look into domestic renewals but challenges such as establishing a brand-new consular services division in Washington D.C. to process all these renewals have delayed this decision and may be the reason for the limited rollout only for H-1B and L-1 visa types.