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Fresh woes for Indian IT companies as Trump administration extends H-1B premium visa processing suspension

Suspension expected to last until February 2019. This is the second year in a row USCIS has suspended premium processing for H-1B visas

August 29, 2018 / 09:14 PM IST
The fee hike is set to be implemented from October 2, 2020

The fee hike is set to be implemented from October 2, 2020

The legal immigration agency in the United States, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), said it has extended the temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions, which was earlier announced in March.

It also said from September 11, the temporary suspension would be expanded to include certain additional H-1B petitions.

Premium processing is like the “tatkaal” scheme for processing of H-1B visas, which allows processing of applications within 15 calendar days for $1,225 per application.

This could have some impact on the IT services industry, even though National Association of Software and Services Companies did not respond to a request for comment until the time of publishing.

Potential impact on Indian IT industry:

— Under the Trump administration, the US has been trying to tighten H-1B visa norms

— Last year, analysts saw premium processing suspension as a short term measure

— As industry looks at more just-in-time hiring, premium processing suspension means longer waiting time

— Greater scrutiny of applications happened through last year, this could mean even more stringent evaluation of H-1B applications

— The USCIS puts the onus of proving their applications need to be expedited on the H-1B applicant

The H-1B visas are used for skilled labour transfer and the Indian IT services industry has been a huge beneficiary of the programme.

According to the USCIS, it received the maximum number of H-1B petitions from high-skilled Indians, 2.2 million, between 2007 and 2017.

"We expect these suspensions to last until February 19, 2019, and will notify the public via uscis.gov before resuming premium processing for these petitions," the USCIS said in a statement late Wednesday night India time.

The immigration agency, however, said people can ask for expediting their H-1B petitions under certain circumstances, including severe financial loss, emergency situations, humanitarian reasons, USCIS error, national security and so on.

This is the second year in a row USCIS has suspended premium processing for H-1B visas. Last year, however, it had resumed premium processing in September after suspending it in April.

The extension of the temporary suspension this year, according to USCIS, will help it reduce overall H-1B processing times.

USCIS said it would take this time 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".
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Neha Alawadhi
first published: Aug 29, 2018 05:46 pm