H-1B pilot for US domestic visa to be limited to principal applicants and not for dependents
Business organisations and their members have called for the State Department to include H-4 dependents with the expansion of the pilot
A State Department pilot programme to renew H-1B visas in the United States will exclude the dependents of H-1B professionals, it has now been reported. The decision may negatively affect H-1B professionals who have families in the US.
A lot of H-1B employees will be able to renew their visas without leaving the US as part of the programme. However, business organisations and their members have called for the State Department to include H-4 dependents with the expansion of the pilot so that children and spouses are not left behind.
In response to a question on this topic, the State Department spokesperson, on background, said, “While we appreciate the particular interest in H-4 visas for dependent family members, including other visa categories at this stage creates additional technical and operational challenges that cannot be resolved before the pilot launch date. As such, we made the decision to include only H-1B principal applicants while we test our internal systems and processes during this pilot.”
Jon Baselice, vice president of immigration policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was quoted by Forbes, he feels companies and principal H-1B employees will benefit but wishes dependents could also use the program. “I feel there are going to be headaches for families that could have been avoided had they included dependents in the pilot,” said Baselice.
“For this to be a truly useful program, they need to expand the program to include dependents and increase the types of visas that can be renewed domestically,” Fragomen’s Kevin Miner told Forbes.
What is the H-1B visa renewal pilot programme?
A limited number of H-1B specialty occupation workers in the US will be allowed to renew their visas in January, according to State Department officials. The rollout of the H-1B domestic visa renewal pilot will only be limited to 20,000 participants initially. These applicants will just have to mail their visas to the State Department, and will not be allowed to travel outside the US.
The selection process for the first 20,000 candidates has not been detailed yet. The stateside visa renewal pilot program is one of multiple measures the State Department is looking to add or continue with the aim of driving down wait times for travel to the US.
“We really need to get proof of concept that it works before we can extend it to a larger group,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Julie Stufft told reporters after the programme was announced, according to Bloomberg Law. “This is a huge change for folks who live here and previously would have had to leave the United States.”
Stufft also noted that the visa renewal programme is only for work visas. "This is an existing regulation that was allowed that we just have not used in about 20 years. These are work visas. It is intended for people who are living long-term in the US but want to renew their visa without going back overseas," she said.