Almost 25% of the people working in STEM are immigrants to the U.S. Many are here on coveted H-1B visas, which go to those who have “specialty occupations” and professionals involved in research and development projects. Those skilled in the STEM fields have been attracted to the U.S. – and to tech hubs like Seattle in particular – because of the opportunities available here.
Currently, those who are in the U.S. on H-1B visas have to return to their home country to get their visas renewed. This, of course, is a serious and expensive inconvenience, and in recent years when international travel was highly restricted, virtually impossible in some cases.
A pilot program will serve H and L visa holders
If you are in the U.S. on an H-1B visa, it may be getting a lot easier to renew it. The U.S. Department of State has announced that it will be implementing a pilot program sometime this year that will allow H and L visa holders to renew their visas in the U.S. Access to this program may eventually expand to other visa holders as well.
Once again allowing “stateside” renewals (after the practice was stopped nearly two decades ago) is expected to lighten the load on consular offices abroad. Countries like India, where many H and L visa holders are from, have experienced serious delays in processing renewals. This reality inconveniences employees and employers alike.
A date for the start of the pilot program hasn’t been announced beyond the State Department’s clarification that it will start later in 2023. Trade groups, immigration attorneys and others who have pushed for the change, however, are pleased that their efforts seem to have made a difference.
Immigration laws and processes are often, unfortunately, highly political. Therefore, they change as the nation’s leadership does. That’s why it’s crucial to remain informed about these changes as they may affect you and your family. Seeking legal guidance when you have questions or run into issues is also always wise.