Dear Sophie: Is there a domestic pilot program for H-1B and L visa stamps?

Here is another version “Dear Sophie,” an advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at tech companies.

“Your questions are critical to spreading the knowledge that allows people around the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” said Silicon Valley immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn. Whether you’re in People Ops, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in the next column.

TechCrunch+ members receive weekly access to the “Dear Sophie” columns; Use ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription at 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I am in the US on an H-1B that my employer recently extended. However, I do not have an H-1B visa stamp in my passport because I switched from F-1 STEM OPT in the first place.

It’s been over three years since I visited my family in India and I want to do that now, but I’m worried about how long it will take to get my H-1B visa to come back to the US.

How long does it take to get an interview for an H-1B visa stamp? Am I eligible for a visa interview waiver? How do I get it? Can I make it from America this year?

– Hungry for home

dear hungry,

Forgive me for being separated from your loved ones for so long. I really admire your strength and tenacity.

We are excited to share some long-awaited news that may help you and others and provide some context regarding visa stamps or visa stamp renewals.

Many people who have renewed their visas or changed to another visa category have stopped traveling abroad for fear that they will not be able to return to the United States quickly. The situation is slow to change and the current situation is likely to take effect after the upcoming H-1B visa lottery this March.

Although the US Department of State (DoS) has implemented policies to reduce the time it takes to get visa stamps at US embassies and consulates abroad, delays persist.

But there’s a chance we’ll get visas for international travel later this year.

Immigration attorney Sophie Alcorn with the TechCrunch logo in the background.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (Opens in a new window)

A pilot program to renew a visa stamp in the US

The DoS plans to conduct a pilot program later this year that will allow H and L visa holders to enhance the stamps in their passports while in the United States. Currently, visa holders must travel abroad to obtain a visa foil in their passport (often nicknamed a “visa stamp”) from a US embassy or consulate.

According to Bloomberg Law, the DoS plans to establish a new consulate in Washington, DC. Many people have been arguing for this for years. DoS was used domestically to process renewals for several categories, including E, H, L, and O visas, until 2004, when national security laws began collecting biometric data from visa applicants.

Since then, DOS requires all visa applicants who go through the change of status process in the US, except for certain diplomatic and other visa applicants, to have a visa stamp issued by a US embassy or consulate abroad.

Now let me get into your questions.

Duration of H-1B visa interviews

DOS has a Visa Appointment Wait Times page that allows you to view wait times at US embassies and consulates. Waiting times may vary depending on where you are in India, but they are always changing.

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