Earlier this year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it would temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions.
The H-1B visa process is under review by the Trump administration. Many commentators viewed the announcement in March as a further restriction on legal immigration.
Stripping out premium processing eliminates the option of shorter wait times for a program that helps skilled foreigners to find work at US companies.
Premium processing allowed companies submitting applications for H-1B visas for potential employees to pay extra for a faster process.
Instead of waiting for months to find out if they were successful in the H-1B visa lottery, potential employers received a response within 15 days.
What is Premium Processing of H-1B Visas?
On its website, USCIS explained The 15 calendar day period starts when it receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at a correct filing address
Applicants for H-1B visas enter a lottery process. USCIS issued an approval notice, a denial, a notice of intent to deny, a request for more evidence or the opening of a fraud investigation for misrepresentation within the 15 calendar day period.
When the petition required additional evidence or a response to the notice of intent to deny, a new 15 calendar day period stated when USCIS received a complete response to the request for evidence or a notice of intent to deny.
How Much Did Premium Processing Cost?
Premium processing cost employers an additional $1,225. Processing of standard H-1B applications without the premium processing typically took between three to six months.
The suspension was imposed effective April 3, 2017. USCIS stated it would temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions. The suspension is expected to last six months.
FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed with USCIS before April 3, 2017. The suspension applies to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and the master’s advanced degree cap exemption. USCIS said the suspension also applies to petitions that might be exempt from the cap.
Premium Processing Suspension Followed Criticism of H-1B Visas
President Donald Trump has criticized the H-1B visa system. These visas for skilled workers are the main route for foreigners holding Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to work at US companies. In 2016, the demand for H-1B visas was three times greater than the 85,000 available.
CNN reported on concerns by the Trump administration that outsourcing firms were flooding the lottery system with applicants, picking up visas for foreign workers and farming them out to tech companies. The outsourcing firms were reported to be taking a sizable cut of the salary.
Although the visas are used to fill a skills gap, Trump has been outspoken about abuse of the program.
Companies seeking to obtain an H-1B visa are facing an increasing number of obstacles. You can find out more about the lottery process here. Call our Austin business immigration lawyers for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.