The United States is set to launch a pilot programme for domestic renewal of certain categories of H-1B visas in December.
This move is expected to significantly benefit a large group of Indian technology professionals.
This comes months after the White House announced the plan during the state visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June.
Julie Stufft, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services, in an interview to the news agency PTI, said the demand for US visas in India remains significantly high.
"The wait time of six, eight and 12 months is not what we need and (it is) not indicative of how we view India," Stufft said.
"We want to make sure that Indian travellers can get appointments as quickly as possible. One way we are doing that is through the domestic visa renewal programme, which is focused very much on India. We are piloting that," she said.
Starting in December and spanning three months, the State Department plans to issue 20,000 visas to foreign nationals currently residing within the country.
"We will do 20,000 in the first group. The vast majority of those will be Indian nationals living in the US and we will expand as it goes on," she said.
"Because Indians are the largest skilled group of workers in the United States, we hope that India will benefit quite a bit from this programme and it will prevent people from having to travel back to India or anywhere for a visa appointment to get their visa renewed. It will allow our missions in India to concentrate on new applicants," Stufft said.
While the State Department has been working on launching such a programme on a pilot basis for quite some time now, it was formally announced during PM Modi's visit.
The plan, which was mentioned in the joint statement and announced by Prime Minister Modi during his address to the Indian expatriates at the Ronald Reagan Centre, has received enthusiastic approval from the Indian community in the United States.
In response to a question, Stufft announced that a federal register notice, serving as the initial official announcement, will be released shortly. This notice will detail all the necessary steps to be followed, identify who can apply in the initial round, and provide the associated instructions.
"But I can say that we are doing these visas here in the United States. So, the idea is for a visa to be mailed from the United States to us in Washington. We print the visa and process the visa, put it in the passport and send it back to someone in the United States," she said.
"So (that) the people don't have to go to either Mexico or Canada or back to India or anywhere (else) to get that visa renewed. That is something that will be laid out very clearly in this federal register notice that comes out in a few weeks," she said.
Stufft emphasised that the domestic visa renewal programme is exclusively 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.
Stufft described the project as a "huge undertaking", expressing great enthusiasm about its commencement.
"We're starting small with a pilot of 20,000 cases in December, January and February and we look forward to opening that to more categories of workers living in the United States in the rest of 2024," she said.
In a statement, Indian-American community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria termed the move by the State Department "significant".
Bhutoria, serving as a commissioner to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, has made such a proposal, which was accepted and recommended by US President Joe Biden.
"I am happy to see the recommendation I presented on behalf of immigration subcommittees on the Commission for H-1B visa stamping in the USA finally being implemented," he said.
He stated that this aid will eventually affect more than a million H-1B holders, a substantial portion of whom are Indians.
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