Here’s another edition from “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that empowers people around the world to push beyond limits and chase their dreams,” says Sophie Acorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people management, a founder, or looking for a job in Silicon Valley, I’d love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I’m in the US on an H-1B, which my employer recently extended. However, I do not have an H-1B visa stamp in my passport because I originally had a change of status from F-1 VOTE OPT.
It has been over three years since I visited my family in India and I would really like to do so now but I am concerned about how long it will take me to get my H-1B visa to return to The United States.
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 one? Can I do it from the US this year?
– Hungry home
I am sorry to hear that you have been separated from your loved ones for so long. I really admire your strength and resilience.
We are excited to share long overdue news that may help you and others and provide some context about getting a visa stamp or renewing a visa stamp.
Many people who have extended their visas or switched visa categories have postponed traveling abroad for fear of not being able to return to the US soon. so risky. The situation is slowly changing and the current status quo could even remain in place after March’s upcoming H-1B visa lottery.
While the U.S. Department of State (DoS) has implemented policies to reduce the time it takes to obtain a visa stamp at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, the delays remain.
However, there’s a chance we’ll get a way to get a visa without international travel later this year.
Pilot program for visa stamp renewals in the US
The DoS plans to conduct a pilot program later this year that will allow H and L visa holders to renew the stamps in their passports while in the United States. Currently, visa holders must travel abroad to get a visa foil in their passport (often called a “visa stamp”) from a U.S. embassy or consulate.
The DoS plans to set up a new consular branch in Washington, D.C. to begin processing renewals for H and L visas later this year, according to Bloomberg Law. Many people have been advocating for this for years. The DoS domestically processed extensions for many categories, including E, H, L, and O visas, until 2004, when national security laws began requiring the collection of biometrics from visa applicants.
Since then, the DoS has required all visa applicants going through the status change process in the US, with the exception of certain diplomatic and other visa applicants, to obtain a visa stamp at a US embassy or consulate abroad.
Now let me address your questions.
Waiting Times for H-1B Visa Interviews
The DoS has a page with waiting times for visa appointments which allows you to check waiting times at US embassies and consulates. Wait times may vary depending on where you are in India, but they are constantly changing.