State Department Soon To Introduce Domestic Visa Renewal Pilot Program

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March 9, 2023

Good news has arrived for employers with foreign national employees. Some foreign workers looking to renew their visas can do so without going abroad and contending with long visa processing times. Instead, they can renew their visas in the U.S. due to the State Department’s new pilot program. The program applies to non-immigrant H and L visa renewals, starting later this year.

Here are some details about the new program:

Under current rules, people who wish to travel to the U.S. for work must first get a visa stamp at a U.S. consulate or embassy in another country. This rule applies to foreign nationals working in the U.S. who want to travel to their home country for business or work purposes. In the past, workers typically could obtain visas in the United States. However, the 9/11 terrorist attacks changed that, forcing the government to end the stateside visa stamping program. Since then, individuals have had to go abroad for visa stamps.

This change resulted in many problems, which only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues have caused a significant backlog of applications and renewal requests. As a result, the U.S. Department of State announced the new pilot program. The agency intends to address some problems causing the backlogs by allowing certain foreign workers to get visas in the United States. When the pilot program starts later this year, it will restart the domestic visa revalidation program that ended in 2004.

This pilot program will help employers, foreign workers, and their dependents who want to renew their visas. Without it, workers have long waits to obtain visa appointments. They would also risk getting stuck abroad waiting, which could interfere with their employment. Before the announcement of this program, some employers argued against sending their foreign national employees abroad. They wished to avoid the risk of long waits for a visa appointment, which this pilot program will soon address.

Employers should act cautiously, as this pilot program will likely have a limited timeline and scope. In addition, they must still comply with the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process. This process can prove complicated for foreign nationals due to the many documentation options they may present. The easiest way to ensure accurate and complete Form I-9s is by investing in an electronic I-9 management system. This system can guide employers through employment verification and ensure hiring personnel recognize appropriate work authorization. It will also safely and securely store the forms and accompanying documentation for easy retrieval.

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