US State Department Plans to Test Visa Revalidation Program to Reduce Consulate Backlogs

The US State Department is planning to test a program aimed at reducing the impact of significant visa application backlogs at US consulates. The program would allow certain H and L visa holders to revalidate their visas from within the US, rather than traveling abroad to renew their visas at a US consulate. A State Department official has revealed that the visa revalidation pilot is expected to begin later this year.

Although details of the pilot and wider implementation plans are yet to be revealed, immigration advocates have been urging the State Department to permit stateside revalidation as a means of alleviating the lengthy visa application backlogs that developed at consulates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many consulates have returned to pre-pandemic availability, several key regions, including India, remain severely backlogged.

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Stateside visa revalidation is not a new concept, as it was a popular option for foreign nationals whose home consulates had high volumes of applications and long processing backlogs. The program was terminated in 2004 because the State Department did not have a means of collecting applicant biometrics, as required by national security laws enacted after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The State Department’s anticipated revalidation pilot is a positive development for foreign nationals facing long waits for nonimmigrant visa renewal at US consulates and the disruptions caused by those waits. However, it is likely to be narrow in scope and time-limited as the State Department tests its ability to reimplement revalidation. It may take months or longer for the State Department to roll out a full stateside revalidation program after the pilot is completed.