Foreigners with worker visas must reapply for them overseas when they leave the United States, the State Department (search) said Wednesday.

Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that in the past, foreigners with worker visas (search) who returned to their home countries were able to reapply for visas before they left the United States.

The reason for the switch, he said, is that U.S. embassies abroad are better equipped than government offices in the United States to interview and fingerprint (search) the growing number of visa applicants.

"These people can stay as long as they want. They can leave when they want," Boucher said. "But when they come back, instead of getting a visa here in advance, they will have to get one overseas at one of our embassies and consulates and then come back."

Diplomatic or official visas will continue to be processed in Washington and New York, the department said.

The primary beneficiaries of the service in the United States have been foreign workers in computer and technology industries.

Boucher said almost 50 percent of the applicants have been from India. Other nationalities in the top five are Japanese, Chinese, British and South Koreans.

More than 50,000 people from more than 60 countries were processed last year, Boucher added.