In a move that will benefit many Indian technology professionals already in the US, a pilot programme to resume domestic visa renewal for qualified H-1B visa applicants has cleared a review by a top regulatory body under the White House.
The 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.
Under the pilot cleared by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) review on December 15, the qualif ied H-1B visa applicants will not have to travel abroad to renew the work visa.
The OIRA is a statutory part of the office of management and budget within the executive office of the US President.
In November, Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary of sate for visa services, said, “In India, the demand (for US visas) is still very high.
The wait time of six, eight and 12 months is not what we need and (it is) not indicative of how we view India.”
“We want to make sure that Indian travellers can get appointments as quickly as possible. One way we are doing that is through the domestic visa renewal programme, which is focused very m uch on India. We are piloting that,” she said.
Over three months, beginning in December, the state departments will be issuing 20,000 visas to foreign nationals who are already inside the country.
“We will do 20,000 in the first group. The vast majority of those will be Indian nationals living in the US and we will expand as it goes on.”
“Because Indians are the largest skilled group of workers in the United States, we hope that India will benefit quite a bit from this programme and it will prevent people from having to travel back to India or anywhere for a visa appointment to get their visa renewal. It will allow our missions in India to concentrate on new applicants ,” Stufft told PTI last month.
While the State Department has been working on launching such a programme on a pilot basis for quite some time now, it was formally announced during Modi’s visit.
The plan, which was mentioned in the joint statement and announced by Modi during his address to the Indian diaspora at the Ronald Reagan Centre, has been cheered and welcomed by the Indian community in the US.
The domestic visa renewal programme is only for work visas.