H1-B visa crackdown: United States suspends premium processing of all visa petitions

Namrata Tripathi
Visa lifeline for IT: US H-1B premium visa processing is back on the rails

Staying true to United States President Donald Trump's administration vows to crack down hard on H1-B visas, the authorities on late Friday announced that they will temporarily suspend premium processing for all the H1-B visa petitions.The move is set to particularly restrict foreign engineers from working in the US.

Also read: Indian IT firms unrattled by proposed US H-1B, L1 visa curbs

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said on Friday that it will "temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions." The department, in a statement, said that the suspension may last up to six months and that it was a move by the administration to speed up all the applications.

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The US H1-B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows firms to hire foreign workers in specialised occupations. The H-1B and L1 work visas are majorly used by Indian IT professionals. Currently, the cap on H1B visas stands at 65,000, out of which 25,000-35,000 are issued to Indian nationals.

Reports state that the suspension will come into affect on April 3, the day when all the applications open. The move will cancel the option for all the highly skilled workers to find out if their H1-B visa application is approved in as little time as a month.

The USCIS however made it clear that the suspension is not on the H1-B visas, but not only of the "Premium Processing", which allows firms to pay $1,125 to move ahead at the top of the queue of those waiting for their applications to be processed.

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A  USCIS report stated that in 2014 about 65 percent of the applications were for computer-related jobs. An 85,000 annual cap on the number of visas given results in a lottery and delays after applications pass the limit in under a week.

The move will affect even the workers inside the US as it will make it difficult for them to change jobs or travel outside the country while they wait to find out the result.

Trump had previously claimed to "forever end" the use of H1-B visas for cheaper labour and his top adviser Stephen Bannon has said that there was an issue with the number of Asian CEOs in Silicon Valley. 

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Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's tech lobbying group FWD.us has sought an expansion of the H1-B visa program, US 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 Indian government last month had discussed H1-B visa issues with an eight-member delegation led by United States Congressman Bob Goodlatte. The US delegation met the Union Electronics and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to talk about visa issues related to movement of skilled manpower and intellectual property rights. Trump team's proposals of the H1-B visa overhaul have caused a major concern among Indian IT firms.

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