Sunday, 05 March 2017 07:42

US suspends premium processing of H-1B visas Featured

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Premium processing of H-1B visas will be suspended from 3 April, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services says.

In a notice posted on its website, the USCIS said the suspension could last up to six months.

The premium processing allowed companies that applied for a H-1B visa and wanted it processed fast to file an additional form (Form I-907) and pay an additional US$1225 to have the process completed in 15 days. Processing an H-1B visa can take up to six months.

The USCIS notice said this action was being taken to enable the processing of long-pending petitions which had been delayed due to the increase in premium processing over the past few years.

Additionally, the notice said, there was a need for prioritising adjudication of H-1B extension cases that were nearing the 240-day mark.

US President Donald Trump has said he wants to change the visa issuing process so that Americans get preference in filling jobs. But his administration has not yet specified what changes will be made.

Following his election, Indian IT outsourcing firms have been nervously waiting to see what changes would be made. Estimates have shown that 86% of H-1B visas for IT-related jobs are issued to Indians. A total of 85,000 H-1B visas are issued each year.

Two bills on reform of the H-1B visa system are pending in the US Congress: one, the High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017, was moved by Democrat Zoe Lofgren. An alternative bill has been proposed by Republican Darrell Issa.

The USCIS decision will affect H-1B visa for FY18 as these cannot be filed before 3 April.

The announcement said companies could apply to have an application for a H-1B visa expedited, provided they met certain criteria.

These are:

  • Severe financial loss to company or ​person​;​
  • Emergency situation;​
  • Humanitarian reasons;​
  • Non-profit organisation whose request is in furtherance of US cultural and social interests​;​
  • Department of Defence or ​n​ational ​i​nterest ​s​ituation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official US government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);​
  • USCIS error; or​
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.​

Some commentators have argued that changes to the H-1B visa system will not affect US companies, provided no changes were made to the L-1B visa system.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa and allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in high-skilled occupations.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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