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H1-B visa renewals made easy – Indians can regenerate their US work visa without travelling back home

H1-B visa renewals made easy – Indians can regenerate their US work visa without travelling back home
  • The latest guidelines will allow Indians holding H1-B visas to opt for an extension while staying in the United States.
  • Earlier, one had to travel to India to get their passports stamped for re-entry.
  • In fiscal year 2022, Indian citizens comprised 73% of the total number of H-1B workers, which was approximately 442,000.
US authorities have unveiled plans to introduce ‘in-country’ renewable H-1B visas , aiming to simplify the H-1B visa renewal process for many Indian individuals employed in the US on such visas. This development is expected to streamline, and facilitate the visa renewal process for Indian professionals working in the US on H-1B visas, and is one of the major takeaways from PM Modi’s visit to the US.

The latest guidelines will allow specific Indians holding H-1B visas to extend their visas while staying within the United States, eliminating the requirement to travel overseas. This initiative is presently being considered as a pilot program that may be expanded in the coming years.

Prior to 2004, the H-1B visa could be renewed, or endorsed within the United States. However, starting from 2004, individuals on H-1B visas were required to return to their home country in order to obtain the necessary extension stamp on their passports.

What is the H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa in the United States that allows employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. It is commonly used for professions requiring specialized knowledge, such as IT, engineering, and healthcare. The visa is typically granted for a period of three years, and can be extended up to a total of six years.

In fiscal year 2022, Indian citizens comprised 73% of the total number of H-1B workers, which was approximately 442,000. The US government issues 65,000 H-1B visas annually for companies seeking skilled foreign workers, in addition to an extra 20,000 visas for individuals with advanced degrees.

Suspension of H-1B visas during Trump regime

In July 2022, the then US President Donald Trump implemented a temporary suspension on H-IB visas, effectively preventing hundreds of thousands of foreigners from pursuing employment opportunities in the United States. This measure was part of a broader initiative aimed at restricting the entry of immigrants into the country and that hit Indians the hardest. In January 2021, this ban was extended. In April 2021, Biden ended the H-1B visa ban, which benefited thousands of Indian professionals, especially from the IT sector.

How this move benefit Indians

This move will benefit Indians who work and live in the US. As per earlier rules, anyone staying in the US under an H-1B visa in India had to come to India to renew the visa on expiry. Whenever H-1B visa holders had their visas renewed, it was necessary for them to obtain visa stamps on their passport indicating the new renewal dates. These stamped passports were required if they plan to travel outside the United States, and subsequently re-enter the country.

For this, one had to schedule an appointment at a US consulate or embassy in India. The process used to be smooth, but during the pandemic, a huge backlog was created. Says Shwetha Parekh, who stays in the US on an H-1B Visa. “The backlog was so much that when I tried to book an appointment in 2021, I was getting one only six months later. I wanted to come back home to meet my family but could not, as if I stepped out, I could not re-enter the US.”

With this new rule coming in place, renewing an H-1B visa will become both easy and cost-effective.

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