The United States is poised to initiate a pilot program for the domestic renewal of specific categories of H-1B visas in December. This move is anticipated to greatly benefit a substantial number of Indian technology professionals, according to a US official.
This step follows months after the White House unveiled the plan during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit in June. Julie Stufft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services, mentioned that demand for US visas remains notably high in India, with waiting periods of six, eight, or even 12 months, which is not reflective of their perspective on India.
"We aim to expedite appointment availability for Indian travelers as much as possible. One approach we're adopting is the domestic visa renewal program, particularly focused on India. We're currently piloting this initiative," Stufft remarked.
Commencing in December and spanning three months, the State Department will issue 20,000 visas to foreign nationals already residing within the US.
"In the initial phase, 20,000 visas will be allocated, predominantly to Indian nationals living in the US. We plan to expand this as it progresses. Given that Indians constitute the largest skilled workforce in the US, we anticipate significant benefits for India through this program. It will obviate the need for individuals to return to India or elsewhere for visa renewals, thereby enabling our missions in India to prioritize new applicants," Stufft explained.
Despite the State Department's prior efforts to establish such a program on a trial basis, the formal announcement occurred during Modi's visit. The plan, highlighted in the joint statement and affirmed by Modi during his speech to the Indian diaspora at the Ronald Reagan Centre, has received applause and appreciation from the Indian community in the US.
Emphasizing that the domestic visa renewal program exclusively pertains to work visas, Stufft clarified, "This is an existing regulation that has been dormant for approximately 20 years. These are work visas designated for individuals who have long-term residency in the US and seek to renew their visas without returning overseas."