An Indian passport sits on a desk along with a set of visa application forms at a BLS International Services Ltd. visa processing center in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

U.S. Extends Suspension Of Premium Processing For H-1B Visas

The U.S. 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 suspension, announced yesterday by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is expected to last until Feb. 19 next year.

The U.S. CIS 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.

The U.S. CIS said it is extending the temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions and, beginning Sept. 11 this year, will be expanding this temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions.

Under the premium processing, the U.S. CIS has to respond within 15 days to the H-1B visa petitions submitted to it.

The U.S. CIS had announced in March that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all financial 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 financial year 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions was originally slated to last until Sept. 10, 2018, but that suspension is being extended through an estimated date of Feb. 19, 2019.

The temporary suspension will allow the agency to be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates and prioritise adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

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 U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.

Also read: Swaraj Flags H1B Visa Issue At Meeting With U.S. Congressional Delegation

Additionally, H1-B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education, or its affiliated or related non-profit entities, or a non-profit research organisation or a government research organisation, are not subject to this numerical cap.

According to the U.S. CIS, between 2007 and 2017, it received the maximum number of 2.2 million H-1B petitions from high-skilled Indians. India was followed by China with 301,000 H-1B petitions during the same period.