The White House has officially announced that the U.S. Department of State (DHS) will run a pilot program later this year. This program would permit certain classifications of temporary employment-based visas to perform domestic renewals. In addition, it would allow those using the program to remain in the U.S. during their renewal instead of traveling outside of the country.
Employers of H-1B workers and holders of other temporary employment-based visas are likely aware of the challenges with applying for renewals. Before this announcement, U.S. visa stamping required workers to travel abroad to receive the stamp. Before 2004, the DHS allowed several visas to receive stamps within the United States. Examples of accepted visa types included C, E, H, I, L, O, and P. Unfortunately, this policy ended in July 2004, and despite many rumors, it did not return until now.
In February 2023, a representative from the DHS indicated that the Department intended to launch a pilot program. The agency intended to test the feasibility of allowing domestic renewals for several temporary visa categories later in 2023. A briefing titled “Joint Statement from the United States and India” provided the first official announcement of this pilot program.
According to the announcement, this pilot program would give the Department greater adjudication. As such, the DHS could “adjudicate domestic renewals of certain petition-based temporary work visas later this year, including for Indian nationals, with the intent to implement this for an expanded pool of H-1B and L visa holders in 2024 and eventually broadening the program to include other eligible categories.” This permission would allow many employers to skip the process of sending foreign national workers overseas. Visa holders often suffer extended wait times between arranging a visa appointment and processing times at consular offices outside the U.S.
The DHS has not officially announced this pilot program’s start date. However, the DHS will likely provide the program’s specific dates and additional details shortly. Regardless, many employers will likely welcome this program, as it would remove one more obstacle when hiring foreign national workers.
However, employers must still face the challenges of completing the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9) process. Such challenges include the continuously changing requirements. The best way to maintain I-9 compliance is by using an electronic I-9 management system. This system guides personnel through the process, ensuring uniform compliance with every form.
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