Stateside Visa Revalidation Pilot Launching in 2023
A US visa revalidation pilot program is due to be launched later this year, allowing L and H-1B workers to renew their visas without having to leave the US, according to a State Department official.
Deputy assistant secretary for visa services at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Julie Stufft, told Bloomberg Law in an interview that the agency is going to begin the pilot to allow certain foreign nationals to revalidate expired and expiring visas in the United States, without the need to travel abroad and apply at a US consulate overseas.
Stufft stated that H and L visa holders will have access to the stateside renewal option, and that this may in time be expanded to other categories. This means that under the pilot, L and H-1B visa workers will no longer have to travel overseas to extend their status. It is also expected that the pilot will alleviate pressures and demand on US consular services abroad.
Under current rules, foreign employees are not permitted to reenter the US without a current visa stamp. However, due to the lengthy appointment wait times for nonimmigrant visa renewals at US consulates since the pandemic, many workers have been stranded abroad for months, causing additional difficulties for employers.
“We all saw during the pandemic how difficult it was for these people to return to their home country and often not be able to get visa appointments to come back to their home, the United States,” she said. “That’s what we’re trying to address initially with this.”
Stateside visa renewals were previously abolished in 2004 because the State Department lacked the resources to gather applicant biometrics as required under national security rules passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Only certain diplomatic and international organization visas were excepted from the withdrawal of in-country revalidation and continue to be eligible for domestic visa revalidation.
The pilot scheme is being welcomed by US employers and foreign national visa workers, who anticipate faster processing times and reduced disruption to work permission for L and H-1B workers.
The State Department will use the pilot to assess its capacity to reintroduce revalidation, although it is expected that any potential permanent reintroduction across broader categories will take some time to take effect.
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This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.