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H-1B Pilot Renewal Program to Start in January

A small number of H-1B specialty workers will be allowed to apply to renew their visas in the U.S. starting late next month, Bloomberg Government (subscription) reports.

What’s going on: Full details of the highly anticipated pilot for domestic visa renewals whose workers are popular among employers in the technology industry were laid out in a Federal Register notice released Wednesday.”

  • The program, which will accept applications from Jan. 29 to April 1, 2024, will start with 20,000 workers but scale up later.

Who’s eligible: The pilot is open to “H-1B workers who received their visas at consular offices in India with an issuance date of Feb. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021, or Canada with an issuance date of Jan. 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023.”

The details: The State Department will open 4,000 application spots every week beginning Jan. 29.

  • Of those, half will be reserved for individuals with H-1B visas issued in Canada, and half for those with H-1B visas issued in India.
  • The application period will end April 1 or when all slots are filled, whichever comes first.

Why it’s important: “Although the domestic visa renewal option will start with a narrow pool of applicants, it’s seen as a tool that will eventually help relieve workloads on U.S. consular offices abroad and help continue to drive down wait times for all appointments. It will also offer certainty to workers and their companies who would like to remove barriers to business travel for employees on temporary visas.”

  • Since 2004, H-1B visa holders and other temporary workers have been required to leave the U.S. to renew their work permits.
  • But long wait times—particularly in India, where most H-1B visa holders originate—have stranded some overseas for months, “discouraging others from going abroad” for renewal.

Our say: “Job openings in manufacturing are highly technical, and workers require specialized skills and training credentials,” said NAM Director of Domestic Policy Julia Bogue.

  • “This announcement will streamline H-1B renewals, which is important in preventing disruption in the workforce, as manufacturers need to attract a diverse set of workers with technical backgrounds in science, technology and engineering.” 
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