US extends suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas

Vastavam web: The US has extended the temporary suspension of premium processing for H1-B visas, popular among Indian IT professionals, as part of its efforts to clear the backlog. Premium processing is a feature that shortens the usual processing time of H-1B visa petitions from an average of six months to 15 calendar days for a fee of $1,225 (Rs 86,181). It allowed some companies to jump the queue.

The USCIS said it is extending the temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions and, beginning September 11, will be expanding this temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions. The USCIS had announced in March that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a US master’s degree or higher.

This suspension of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions was originally slated to last until September 10, 2018, but that suspension is being extended through an estimated date of February 19, 2019. The USCIS said the temporary suspension will help it reduce overall H-1B processing times by allowing it to process long-pending petitions, which the agency said it has been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and premium processing requests over the past few months.

As an H-1B non-immigrant, the applicant may be admitted for a period of up to three years. The time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years. The H1-B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Additionally, H1-B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities or a nonprofit research organisation or a government research organisation are not subject to this numerical cap.