New York, Dec 19 (IANS) In a move likely to benefit Indian professionals, a pilot program allowing H-1B holders to renew visas without leaving the US, has cleared a review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
To begin with, 20,000 H-1B specialty occupation workers will be able to renew their visas in the US beginning from January next year.
However, the full details of eligibility and operation of the pilot will emerge when a notice is published in the Federal Register, Bloomberg Law reported.
The pilot cleared the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs review on December 15, the final regulatory hurdle before publication.
This development comes months after the White House announced a pilot program for domestic renewal of certain categories of H-1B visas during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year.
It would allow H-1B holders to renew their visas by mailing them to the State Department rather than travel outside the US and face uncertain wait times to secure an appointment at an American consular office before returning.
In countries like India, the largest source of H-1B workers, high visa wait times have added uncertainty to travel plans for those workers and their employers.
An estimated 75 per cent of the H-1B visa granted in a year are known to go to workers from India, hired by some of the largest US tech giant such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.
Due to heavy visa backlogs, some H-1B workers have pursued work-arounds such as traveling to nearby countries with fewer backlogs to secure appointments.
The average wait time to secure a visa appointment for travel to the US fell to 130 days last year, a drop of 70 days from fiscal year 2022.
The State Department considers acceptable wait times to be closer to 90 days.