USCIS is Slowly Returning to Normal — With Changes
In the United States, the USCIS pandemic restrictions have slowly returned back to a new normal. Of course, there’s the understanding that those visa requests that had been delayed due to the shutdown would be the first to get processed and that backlog has created the inevitable domino effect of further delays.
But the forced virtual changes have had an unexpected effect. They’ve helped the world get used to completing work and tasks online, which is now streamlining the visa renewal programs.
Now, domestic visa revalidation for categories like H-1B and L-1 visas is resuming through a pilot program.
No More Need to Travel Abroad
Previously, those planning to renew their H-1B specialty occupation or L-1 visa holders might have had to travel abroad to complete the process. This step has been in effect since 2004 when the government discontinued stateside visa renewals.
Before 2004, some non-immigrant visa holders, such as the H-1B specialty workers, could stay in the US while obtaining their domestic visa renewal stamp. In 2004, this changed, and foreign workers had to return to their home country and schedule an appointment with the US Embassy or Consulate there to receive their extension stamp.
Yet, the significant delays from the backlog of renewal requests meant a change was necessary. This new pilot program takes the US back to pre-2004 and allows H-1B and L-1 workers to remain in the US and receive their passport renewal stamp domestically. Because many US Embassies and Consulates in other countries aren’t back to full functioning capacity yet, this pilot program should alleviate some of the backlogs. In places like India, the embassies are almost back to normal, but they continue to remain the busiest Consulates in the world due to the many technology worker visa requests. Allowing renewal requests to receive processing in the US helps relieve the heavy workload.
International Travel Restrictions Continue to Be a Problem
During the pandemic, returning home to renew a visa was close to impossible for thousands of H-1B and L visa holders. This led to a domino effect of “out of status” visa holders and a call for the US government to adjust its policies to become more flexible.
International travel may be easier now, but it’s still not back to pre-COVID status. Some visa holders can return to their home country only to find out that obtaining an appointment at the Embassy or Consulate can take months or longer.
With the option to renew visas stateside for H and L visa holders, this pilot program could fix all of these issues. If it works well, there is the potential to expand to other categories.
Right now, we don’t have many details about the pilot program and how it will work. We do know it’s an exciting first step for many visa holders already in the United States. In the meantime, if you have any questions about obtaining or retaining your H-1B visa, Visa2US is here to answer all your queries.
Our immigration experts are available 24/7 to help you understand the terms of your visa contract and how to prepare for an initial visa. It’s visa season — contact us now to ensure your next steps to become or hire a foreign worker are successful!