Immigration Update: H1-B and L Workers Can Soon Renew Visas from the Comfort of Their U.S. Homes
By: Jan Pederson
The Department of State announced on February 9, 2023, that it will launch a pilot program to renew H-1B and L-1 visas in the United States. This will help avoid the crushing delays abroad while critically needed physicians, IT workers and other professionals wait weeks to months for a visa renewal stamp. This pilot program will ensure that workers will return to work in a timely fashion, where they contribute much to our economy. The lengthy delays to obtain visa appointments abroad began in March 2020 with COVID-19 when American consular posts virtually shuttered visa operations. They have begun reopening but not quickly enough to meet demand. It often takes months to secure a visa appointment at an American post abroad to renew a visa, followed by long waits, particularly in India, to complete the renewal process.
The Department of State routinely renewed most E-1 (Treaty Traders and dependents), E-2 (Treaty Investors and dependents), F-1 (students) F-2 (dependents of F-1), H, L, O and P visas at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., prior to closing down to most visa renewals in 2004. We immigration attorneys are delighted that this pressure point on employers and foreign workers will be reduced. At present, foreign national nonimmigrant workers must often choose between visiting family abroad and risking their employment and careers in the United States. No launch date for this pilot program has been announced, but it is expected by the end of 2023.
It is expected that the H-4 and L-2 dependents of H-1B and L visa holders will be included in the domestic visa revalidation program. As in the past when domestic visa revalidations were prevalent for student and work visas, it is expected that the domestic revalidation division of the Department of State will decline to domestically revalidate visas with grounds of inadmissibility or more complex cases.
As the Department of State launches this much needed domestic visa revalidation program, officials at the Department of State have indicated the intention to expand the visa classifications which can be validated. We will post updates as they become available.