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  4. Good news! US launches 5-week programme to renew H-1B visas, announces fresh selection criteria

Good news! US launches 5-week programme to renew H-1B visas, announces fresh selection criteria

The US State Department said the pilot programme will accept applications from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever comes first.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: January 31, 2024 11:47 IST
US H1-B VISA
Image Source : PIXABAY Representational Image

New Delhi: The US has formally launched a pilot programme to renew the much sought-after H-1B foreign work visas domestically, a move that is likely to benefit thousands of Indian tech professionals. The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

Launched on January 29, the pilot renewal programme will run till April 1. It will allow H-1B visa holders who are currently in status to renew their visas in the US before a temporary trip abroad. An announcement in this regard was made during the historic State visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June last year.

In a statement on Monday, the State Department said the pilot programme will accept applications from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or when all application slots are filled, whichever comes first.

New selection criteria to apply from October

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a final rule for the fiscal year 2025 (FY 2025) H-1B cap to fortify the integrity of the H-1B registration process and mitigate fraud risks. The rule introduces a beneficiary-centric selection process, ensuring fairness and equal opportunities for all beneficiaries, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf.

Registrations will now be selected based on unique beneficiaries, reducing the potential for fraud and ensuring equal chances of selection. Beginning with the FY 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will mandate registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary.

The final rule clarifies requirements regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the H-1B cap, allowing filing with requested start dates after October 1 of the relevant fiscal year. The rule codifies USCIS' ability to deny or revoke H-1B petitions if the registration contains false attestation or is otherwise invalid.

USCIS will launch organisational accounts on February 28, 2024, allowing collaboration on H-1B registrations, petitions, and associated forms. Online filing of Form I-129 and Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions will also commence on the same date.

First time in past 20 years 

This is the first time in nearly two decades that a limited number of H-1B nonimmigrants will be able to renew their visas from within the US.

The State Department said the pilot programme is voluntary and it will allow approximately 4,000 applications each week, with 2,000 for applicants whose prior H-1B visas were issued by its diplomatic missions Canada, and another 2,000 for applicants whose prior H-1B visas were issued by US embassies and consulates in India.

Application slots will be released on January 29, February 5, February 12, February 19, and February 26. Applicants will only be able to apply through the portal linked below during the specified dates above, it said, adding that applications will be handled on a first-received, first-processed basis until the weekly limit is reached. “Applicants who are unable to apply on one application date may reattempt application on any of the remaining application dates during the entry period. The application period will close when all application slots are filled or on April 1, 2024, whichever comes first,” it said.

The estimated processing time will take six to eight weeks from the date the applicant’s passport and other required documents are received by the state department. The State Department said all applications will be handled on a strict first-received, first-processed basis, it said. “Individuals who do not meet the requirements for participation in the pilot programme, or those who choose not to participate in the pilot programme, may continue to apply for visa renewal at a US embassy or consulate overseas,” the State Department said.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Why is Canada limiting entry of foreign students? Will it impact Indian students? EXPLAINED

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