In a welcome development, certain H-1B employees will now be able to renew their visa stamp in the United States, without having to apply at a US consulate in their home country or elsewhere.
The stateside visa renewal pilot program of the US State Department is set to take effect in January, as reported. This is in a bid to cut down long appointment wait times at US consulates abroad. Under the pilot program, the grant of H-1B visas will be limited to 20,000 initially. Details on this are expected to be published in the Federal Register in December that will outline instructions and eligibility criteria, among other things.
Additionally, the State Department is considering extending “interview waivers” for certain nonimmigrant visa categories. The Trump administration had authorized consular officers to grant in-person interview waivers for certain visa categories during COVID (such as the L, H-1, O), which authorization was extended several times by the current administration, and is now set to expire in December of this year.
Reportedly, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Julie Stufft, remarked, “The legal authority for renewing the waivers is clear, but it requires concurrence from the Department of Homeland Security. The agencies are having a “robust conversation” on what is and isn’t working at ports of entry…Everyone is very focused on making sure we resolve this issue by the end of the year.”
A significant number of non immigrant visas including the H-1B and L-1 were issued without an in person interview. In such cases, candidates submit their applications via the Dropbox process.
About the H-1B
The H-1B is an employer-sponsored non-immigrant visa classification that allows certain foreign workers to work in the US in a specialty occupation. “Specialty occupation” means a position that requires application of a specialized field of study and one that requires at least a bachelor’s degree as a minimum entry requirement in that specialty. The H-1B cap or H-1B quota is the numerical limit of H-1B visas allowed in a fiscal year (October 1 to September 30). Currently, the regular cap for H-1B visas (requiring a bachelor’s degree) is set at 65,000. There is an additional H-1B annual Master’s cap quota set at 20,000 (requiring at least a US master’s or higher degree).
This article has been written by Zeenat Phophalia, Esq. Of Counsel, Davies & Associates, India Office.
Zeenat Phophalia is qualified to practice law in New York, United Kingdom and India. She practices in the area of U.S. immigration law with a focus on business immigration, and has represented corporate clients including large and medium sized companies and startups across sectors such as IT, consulting, consumer goods, manufacturing and telecommunications.