US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that oversees lawful immigration in the US, on Tuesday resumed premium processing for all types of H-1B visa petitions, a move that would likely be positive for the Indian information technology industry.
H-1B visas are the most widely-used category of visas for sending Indian IT workers to the US for projects. They let Indian IT players send their workforce to US-based client locations, helping them keep costs low and gain an advantage over global competitors.
According to USCIS data, India, which has been the top beneficiary of the H-1B visa programme since 2007, has applied for 247,927 H-1B visas so far in 2017.
“H-1B visas provide skilled workers for a wide range of specialty occupations, including information technology, engineering, and mathematics. When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar day processing time. If that time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application,” USCIS said in a statement on Tuesday.
Premium processing is like a “tatkaal” scheme for processing of H-1B visas that allows faster processing of applications within 15 calendar days for a cost of USD 1,225 per application.
USCIS had suspended premium processing temporarily from April 3. On July 24, the agency resumed premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions.
Although this did not include the visa category used for transferring IT professionals from India to the US, the move was welcomed by the industry in the hope that it will lead to more categories being opened up eventually.
On September 18, the USCIS resumed premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap of 65,000 visas, and also the 20,000 additional petitions that are set aside to hire workers with a US master’s degree or higher educational degree.
The Indian IT industry has been accused of misusing the H-1B visa programme, a claim that it has consistently denied. The industry has been bracing itself for drastic changes in the programme ever since US President Donald Trump took office in November last year.
On their part, Indian IT companies have been working towards a business model that is less dependent on visas.