The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions submitted on or after April 3.
The highly coveted H-1B visa allows U.S. companies to employ highly skilled workers. H-1B visas are in high demand from Bay Area tech companies seeking software engineers, biotech scientists, and other skilled workers from other countries to fill positions.
With premium processing, a company can pay a $1,225 fee to find out within 15 calendar days whether a prospective employee is eligible for an H-1B visa. Without premium processing, a company may be waiting 6 to 8 months—and possibly longer—for a determination. However, an approval of an H-1B petition does not guarantee the employee will receive an H-1B visa at a consular interview abroad.
What Does A Halt to H-1B Premium Processing Mean?
If a company plans on submitting an H-1B petition to transfer or extend an existing employee’s status and wants premium processing, the company must file the petition before April 3. The suspension of premium processing may last up to six months.
Every April, USCIS holds a lottery for 85,000 H-1B visas. USCIS accepts H-1B petitions for the lottery during the first five business days of April. This year it will receive H-1B petitions from Monday, April 3rd to Friday, April 7th. The number of H-1B applications typically far exceeds the 85,000 available. Last year, USCIS received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions.
USCIS says that the temporary suspension of premium processing will allow it to reduce the overall processing time for H-1B petitions. The high volume of H-1B petitions coupled with a high volume of requests for premium processing has meant H-1B extensions are approaching 240 days. However, given the political climate and the scrutiny of H-1B, one wonders if there may be other reasons.
USCIS will continue to offer fast emergency processing for H-1B petitions on a case-by-case basis. An organization must provide evidence that its petition requires such processing due to at least one of the following:
- Severe financial loss to the company or H-1B candidate.
- An emergency situation.
- Humanitarian reasons.
- A nonprofit that is furthering the cultural and social interests of the U.S. is involved.
- A situation of national interest or one that involves the U.S. Department of Defense.
- USCIS made an error.
- An issue of significant interest to USCIS.
Changes to Come for H-1B Process?
Next year, the process may be completely different for companies seeking H-1B visas for prospective employees. Earlier this year, several lawmakers introduced plans to reform the H-1B visa program.
Critics of the H-1B program say the lottery system mostly benefits foreign consulting firms that provide contract workers to U.S. tech companies. Although the H-1B visa program aims to bring international workers to the U.S. to fill positions that cannot be filled by American workers, safeguards to prevent the displacement of American workers are weak.
We Can Help
Regardless of what happens with premium processing or the H-1B process, Alcorn Immigration Law can help. Our team can help your company implement a sound legal strategy to secure the best and the brightest international employees. Contact us.