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US Launches H1B Visa Renewal Scheme Targeting Indian Technology Workers

Updates to the H-1B visa renewal process will make it possible for some Indian technology workers to remain in the US while renewing their visas

Fri Dec 1 2023

The US State Department has revealed plans to launch a new H-1B visa scheme focused on simplifying the renewal process for visa holders currently working in the country. 

The scheme, which comes shortly after another proposal to bring in large scale changes to the H-1B visa process, will be available for up to 20,000 H-1B work visa holders, the majority of whom are Indian nationals working in the technology sector. 

The H-1B visa is a highly desirable route into employment in the US for international students. Successful H-1B visa applicants gain the opportunity to stay in the US and work for a sponsoring company for three years after completing a higher education degree. After their visa expires, H-1B visa holders have the option to extend for a further three years. 

Currently, H1B visa holders working in the US are required to return home and visit an embassy or consulate where they can secure a stamp to renew their visa. This adds to the backlog of H1B visa applications that the State Department is currently working to reduce—average waiting times for a visa appointment sit at 130 days. 

Under the new approach, H-1B visa holders will be able to mail their visas to the State Department and complete their visa renewal domestically—the first time in almost 20 years that this has been possible for H-1B visa holders in the US. 

Slated to begin in January, the initiative will take place over an initial three month period. The State Department is yet to confirm how candidates will be selected for the scheme. 

“We will do 20,000 in the first group. The vast majority of those will be Indian nationals liiving in the US and we will expand as it goes on,” said Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for consular affairs, in a recent interview. 

“We really need to get proof of concept that it works before we can extend it to a larger group.” 

Top companies that sponsor H-1B visas are often concentrated within the technology sector, including big tech firms Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Meta. Layoffs that swept the sector earlier this year have forced some H-1B visa holders to swap employment in the US for Canada, via a new work permit scheme