Changes in the process for issuing nonimmigrant visas for travel to the United States since September 11, 2001, have made it much more difficult for American employers to facilitate the movement of employees in the global market. The suspension of the domestic visa revalidation program for workers currently in the United States requires that companies send employees abroad to renew visas.
Given the delays in scheduling interviews at certain consular posts and the need for the employee to travel with his/her family to revalidate all visas at once, companies have no way to determine how long an employee may be absent from the United States. The result is U.S. employers lose a degree of predictability and incur greater cost.
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Council-SHRM Proposed Solution
Professionals who comply with immigration laws should be able to revalidate visas in the United States, including, but not limited to, E, H, L and O visa holders.
Reinstatement of domestic visa revalidation is possible because:
- Biometrics are collectable. The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sponsor Application Support Centers (ASC) where biometric identifiers can be collected for the issuance of green cards and other work-related authorization. The Department of State (DOS) could commission officers at ASC facilities to collect biometrics.
- Interviews may be waived. Public Law 108-458 provides a waiver for the in-person interview requirement if the candidate meets the same basic criteria required for the previous domestic visa revalidation, and if the waiver is issued by a consular post in the applicant's country of usual residence. Some nonimmigrants may claim the United States as their "place of residence," making visa revalidation viable from a domestic post.
- Security will remain a priority. Ultimately, reestablishment of the domestic revalidation program would not compromise security concerns because:
- Applicant biometrics would be collected at ASC or DOS facilities;
- Applicants would be required to provide the same documentation materials as foreign nationals applying abroad;
- Most revalidation candidates have been interviewed upon their initial application at a foreign post in the last couple of years; and
- The DOS could choose to revert to the current policy requiring travel to a foreign post for an interview, when necessary.
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How the Domestic Visa Revalidation Program Works
Prior to June 23, 2004, nonimmigrant holders of E, H, L and O visas were eligible for revalidation by mail to the Department of State in Washington, DC if they met the following criteria:
- Nationality of applicant had not changed since previous visa issuance;
- Visa classification was the same as currently held visa;
- Current visa had no more than 60 days left before expiration; or,
- Has not expired more than 12 months prior to the date of such application.
However, the State Department discontinued domestic visa revalidation service on the grounds that biometric collection, requiring personal appearance, was better conducted at consular posts abroad based on current resource limitations here. Additionally, in-person interview requirements (unless waived) for nonimmigrant visa applicants in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorist Prevention Act of 2004 (PL 108-458) were a factor. Domestic interviews, or specifically, subsequent refusals, factored into the decision to suspend the program, as those refusals may be subject to review in U.S. courts, while interviews abroad are protected by the doctrine of "consular non-reviewability."
Because of delays in the system and the requirement to go abroad, U.S. employers cannot predict for how long an employee may be absent from the United States during the visa revalidation process, creating unnecessary and costly interruptions and delays. Reinstating domestic visa revalidation would increase predictability and create cost savings.
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