The Department of Homeland Security has suspended expedited processing of H-1B visas for 6 months. This type of visa is for highly skilled foreign nationals looking for work in the US. The expedited processing, more properly named “premium processing”, guarantees a rapid turnaround of applications. USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) will reply within 15 days which allows for a rapid hiring of foreign talent. It also allows foreigners to change from one employer to another while they are in the US.
Without premium processing, an application can take anywhere between 2 and 6 months, depending on the location where it is processed. The suspension will begin on April 3, when the new batch of H-1B applications will start. The suspension is in response to the major increase in premium processing applications for H-1B visas spurred by talks about H-1B visa reform.
This suspension affects only some of the applicants. Premium processing is helpful for people who are already in the US on a student visa or some other type of visa.
The Official Reason for the Suspension
H-1B visas are usually granted for 3 years, but in recent years USCIS has granted them for only 1 year. People who wish to stay longer must file for extensions. Similarly, those who wish to change their employer must require an amendment. Regular processing has become increasingly slower because of this build up of paperwork. Therefore premium processing requests have constantly increased. They have recently skyrocketed when the new administration announced plans to reform the H-1B program. Officially, the suspension aims to clear the backlog.
650,000 foreigners work in the US with the H-1B program. It is unpopular with US white-collar professionals because it transfers well paying jobs to foreigners who can compete with lower wages. On the other side, tech companies heavily support it as a mean to lower their payroll. Key supporters are Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Comcast, Comcast, Carnival, Disney, McDonalds, Caterpillar and Uber. Many of these companies have strongly opposed the travel ban for the same reason.
There are still some applicants that can request premium processing providing they can demonstrate humanitarian reasons, emergency situations or the prospect of a severe financial loss to a company or individual.