US set to introduce in-country renewable H-1B visa: official

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Washington: The US is set to introduce in-country renewable H-1B visas, a significant decision that would help thousands of Indian professionals in staying in the country to continue with their jobs without the hassle of travelling overseas for the renewal of their work visas.

This is part of the people-to-people initiative, a senior administration official said ahead of the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joe Biden at the White House here on Thursday.

The much-sought-after H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

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Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

The United States last year issued 125,000 visas to Indian students, which is a record and they are on pace to become the largest foreign student community in the United States with a 20 per cent increase last year alone, the official explained.

“The second thing that we’re doing is the United States Department of State is going to launch a pilot to adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas later this year, including for Indian nationals with the intent to implement this for an expanded pool of H-1 and L visa holders,” a senior Biden administration official said.

The programme would be eventually broadened to include other eligible categories.
“It is good for people in India, good for people in the United States, really good for our businesses,” said the official.

Until 2004, certain categories of non-immigrant visas, particularly the H-1B, could be renewed or stamped inside the US. After that, for the renewal of these visas, in particular, those on H-1B, the foreign tech workers have to go out of the country, mostly to their own country to get the H-1B extension stamped on their passport.

The H-1B visas are issued for three years at a time.

For all the H-1B visa holders, when their visa is renewed, they need to get their passports stamped with renewal dates. This is required if they wish to travel outside of the US and re-enter the US. As of now, H-1B visa restamping is not allowed within the US. Restamping can only be done at any US consulate.

This was a big inconvenience for foreign guest workers and also for their employees, particularly at a time when the visa wait time is more than 800 days or more than two years.

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