Published: Mon, March 06, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

U.S. suspends fast processing of high-tech visa applications

Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's tech lobbying group has sought an expansion of the H1-B visa program, United States senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) sent a letter to Trump administration on Friday morning asking the president to deliver on his campaign promise to crack down on H-1B visas. The suspension may last up to 6 months.

While USCIS officials referred to the suspension of premium processing as routine - and the agency has done so in the past to clear backlogs in visa applications - the length of the suspension is not normal, according to SFGate.

Under the current system, USA companies could pay an additional $1,225 to expedite the processing of H-1B visas in what's known as "premium processing".

Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act.

The United States offers 85,000 H-1B visas every year, most of which are snapped up by Indian outsourcers whose employees fill a skill gap in U.S. engineering. Several government representatives have earlier said that India was engaged with the administration of new US President Donald Trump, as well as members of the US Congress on concerns regarding the H-1B visa issue.

The USCIS decision will affect H-1B visa for FY18 as these can not be filed before 3 April. The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.

The temporary suspension of premium H1-B visa processing by the USA administration would delay their issue to the Indian IT firms too but is not a major imperdiment, said industry's representative body Nasscom on Sunday. Indians have also been awarded the highest number of H-1B visas among all nationalities in the United States, all along since the program came into existence in 1990.

However, it will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3. After paying an additional $1,225 fee for this service, USCIS responds typically in 15 days, whereas standard H-1B petitions may take anywhere between three to six months to receive a judgement.

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners can still submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage.

The department will consider all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis, but final grant will remain at the discretion of the office leadership, the notification said.

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