The new pilot program, which allows a select number of H-1B foreign workers to extend their visas without leaving the United States, has passed review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
The State Department announced last month that the pilot program is scheduled to launch in January with an initial participation cap of 20,000 individuals. However, comprehensive details regarding eligibility and the operational aspects of the pilot will be shared when the notice is published in the Federal Register.
Having cleared the OIRA review on December 15, this milestone represents the final regulatory hurdle before the official publication of the program.
This initiative is part of a broader strategy by the government to reduce wait times for consular services. Currently, individuals on H-1B specialty occupation visas, commonly used in the tech industry and valid for three years, need to get an appointment at a US embassy or consular office for a visa stamp after traveling abroad. The extended wait times for visa services, particularly in countries like India, the principal source of H-1B workers, have introduced uncertainties into travel plans for both these workers and their employers.
The new pilot program addresses this challenge by allowing eligible H-1B workers to renew their visas within the United States, eliminating the need for international travel solely for visa renewal purposes. This move is particularly significant given that H-1B visa holders, a substantial number of whom come from India, often face prolonged wait times for visa appointments, causing disruptions to their professional and personal plans.