USCIS temporarily suspends fast H-1B visa processing from April 3


NEW DELHI: The agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has said that from April 3, it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions.

The move is likely to impact the Indian information technology services professionals, who travel to the US for work on non-immigrant work visas, most of which are H-1Bs.

According to a statement from the USCIS, the suspension may last up to six months, and will help the agency to “process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark”.

As long as H-1B premium (or fast) processing is suspended, USCIS has said people will also not be able to file, among other things, petitions for a nonimmigrant worker, the classification under which Indian IT companies send their employees to work in the US.

The new US administration, under President Donald Trump has kept the technology industry on tenterhooks regarding the fate of the H-1B visa programme – the most widely used visa for highly skilled labour transfer to the US.

While no new law or executive order has been passed yet, experts almost unanimously agree that the H-1B visa programme will most certainly undergo a change, impacting Indian IT companies.

At present, the US has a cap of 65,000 visas for the general category under H-1B visas and allows a further 20,000 people who have a US master’s degree from an accredited institution to also apply. In a year, nearly 200,000 H-1B visa applications are approved, including visa renewals, extensions and other exempt categories, according to industry estimates.

Several US politicians have called for a reform of the programme, which they call deeply flawed, and have got support from President Trump’s stand on the issue. He said during his campaign that he would clamp down on the misuse of H-1B visas.