The US plans to resume “domestic visa revalidation” in some categories on a trial basis with the aim of expanding it in the following several years, a move that may possibly help thousands of foreign IT workers on H-1B and L1 visas.
Later this year, the initiative is scheduled to begin.
A nonimmigrant work visa called the H-1B enables US firms to hire foreign workers for specialised positions that call for a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Jobs in industries like IT, finance, engineering, architecture, etc. can fall under this category. It is essential to the hiring of tens of thousands of workers each year from nations like China and India by technology companies.
There is a limit on the total number of these visas that may be awarded annually due to the exceptionally high demand for them. The limit is currently 65,000 visas every fiscal year. The visa cap does not apply if your employer is a government research organisation, a nonprofit associated to an institute of higher education, or an institution of higher education itself.
When an employer files a petition to get permission for qualified personnel to be authorised to work and live in the United States, L-1A and L-1B visas may be given.
For intracompany transferees who hold managerial or executive roles in a business that is based outside of the United States, the L-1A visa is available. For intracompany transfers in positions requiring specialised knowledge, an L-1B visa is available.
Similar to the H-1B visa, many US tech companies use this to hire competent workers from nations like India. L1 visas are not subject to a cap.
While L-1B visas are awarded for periods of five years at a time, L-1A visas are issued for periods of seven years.
The proposed change will enable the aforementioned visa holders to renew their visas and remain in the US at the same time.
Holders of expired visas are required to have the renewal dates stamped in their passports. If they want to leave the US or enter it again, they must do this. Currently, it is not possible to restamp an H-1B or L1 visa inside the United States; instead, one must visit a US Consulate.
Foreign workers who must return home to complete the visa renewal process there, as well as their employers who lose a critical labour supply for extended periods of time, find this to be a big nuisance.
The proposed change will enable visa holders to keep working in the United States while their visas are being renewed.
Although initially only a small number of cases will qualify for stateside visa revalidation, the procedure is expected to be built up over the following few years. The trial would start with a small number of cases before increasing over the following 1-2 years, according to a State Department official. “We cannot say on how many visa holders would initially be eligible,” the spokesperson added.
The time it takes to get a visa has increased dramatically over the last few years; some people now have to wait up to two years before they can even get an appointment for a renewal.
Experts claim that there are four main reasons why visa processing times have increased: a lack of staff at embassies, a sudden increase in tourist visas following pandemic-related closures, a backlog of applications from students and professionals in the workforce, and stricter country-specific protocols for granting visas.
The Biden administration has taken a number of actions to address this issue during the past few months. The soon-to-be-implemented idea was one of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders’ recommendations, according to the US State Department.
In a meeting last year, the Commission noted that individuals have been forced to wait up to two years for a visa renewal, stranded in their home country, while their families remained in the US. This approach, which hurt legal immigrants who contributed to the US economy, was unnecessarily harsh. In order to manage the restamping of extended H-1B and L visas inside the US, the Commission advised creating a distinct department or unit.