An official of the U.S. State Department official said in an interview that the agency is creating a pilot program to allow certain foreign nationals to revalidate their visa stamps within the United States, without having to travel abroad and apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
This pilot program is scheduled to be operational later in 2023. Initially, the visa revalidation program will likely be limited to certain H1B and L1 visa holders. The State Department may impose other limits on eligibility. This stateside revalidation program could take some time before it is fully available.
Backlog of Visa Stamping Appointments Cause Problems with Travel
The COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions have caused major visa application backlogs at U.S. embassies and consulates. The U.S. embassies in India and China, for example, were scheduling appointments months and even years in advance, causing problems for people with more immediate needs to travel. U.S. immigration policy requires most foreign nationals to have a valid visa stamp in their passport to return to the United States. The only way to renew those visa stamps were at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. The lack of visa appointments cause serious constraints on foreign nationals who needed to travel internationally.
Previous Visa Revalidation Program
The State Department used to allow foreign nationals to do "visa revalidation" while in the United States. Foreign workers would send their passports to the U.S. State Department, with evidence of their valid nonimmigrant status in the United States. The government would review the documents, process those visa stamps, and return the passports to the foreign national with a new visa stamp that allowed foreign travel.
In this previous version of visa revalidation in the United States, applicants had to hold valid E, H, L, O, P, or certain other nonimmigrant statuses. The individual had to have a visa previously issued at a U.S. consulate and been admitted to the United States in the same status. Visas could be revalidated in the United States in the period beginning 60 days before and up to one year after expiration.
This program was cancelled in the summer of 2004. The program was terminated because the State Department did not have a process for collecting applicant biometrics such as fingerprints and photographs. Congress had required biometrics in laws passed after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
What Visa Revalidation Means for Foreign Workers in the United States
Immigration advocates have been urging the State Department to once again allow stateside visa revalidation. Allowing stateside visa revalidation could reduce the exceptionally long visa application backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This visa revalidation program is designed to reduce the impact of these embassy backlogs on foreign nationals needing to travel abroad for work, family, and vacation.
We don't know many details about the State Department's pilot program for stateside visa revalidation. But this announcement is good news for foreign nationals who are frustrated by long waits to renew their nonimmigrant visa stamps at U.S. embassies and consulates. Visa revalidation could allow people to travel internationally without the frustration and anxiety caused by a lack of visa appointments abroad. Instead of traveling abroad and hoping that the embassy issues a visa stamp, a foreign worker can get their visa stamp issued while in the United States. This will allow for international travel without worrying about the lack of visa appointments or delays caused by administrative processing.
Next Steps for Visa Revalidation Pilot Program
It may take some time for the State Department to fully implement this policy. The pilot program will likely have limitations on who can participate. It will likely take months or even years for a stateside revalidation program to be operational.
World One Law Group will be watching for more news on the visa revalidation program. We will provide updates as we get more news!