In a move likely to benefit Indian professionals, 20,000 H1B specialty occupation workers will be able to renew their visas in the US beginning from January next year, according to State Department officials.
This development comes months after the White House announced a pilot programme for domestic renewal of certain categories of H-1B visas during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June this year.
The visa renewal pilot programme 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, Bloomberg Law reported, citing officials.
It would allow H-1B holders to renew their visas by mailing them to the State Department rather than travel outside the US and face uncertain wait times to secure an appointment at a US consular office before returning.
"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 on Monday.
"This is a huge change for folks who live here and previously would have had to leave the US," she added.
Due to heavy visa backlogs, some H-1B workers have pursued work-arounds such as traveling to nearby countries with fewer backlogs to secure appointments.
According to Stufft, the domestic renewal option would help consular offices in those countries as well as India.
The average wait time to secure a visa appointment for travel to the US fell to 130 days last year, a drop of 70 days from fiscal year 2022.
The State Department considers acceptable wait times to be closer to 90 days.
(With inputs from IANS)