The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that starting from April 2, 2018, it will begin to accept H-1B visa applications. However, the Trump administration has temporarily suspended premium processing for the Fiscal Year 2019 cap-subject petitions. The suspension of the premium processing, which is an option that permits certain petitioners to pay an extra $1,225 fee for USCIS to take action on their petition within 15 calendar days of filing, is expected to end on September 10, 2018.
The decision, according to the USCIS, comes as an attempt to reduce the overall H-1B processing times. It claims that the suspension of premium processing, will create space to process long-pending petitions, which have been left unprocessed so far as a result of the high number of incoming petitions and the significant increase in premium processing requests over the last few years. As well as to prioritize the adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.
The USCIS informs that the suspension is only valid for premium processing requests for H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2019 cap. In the meantime, the agency will continue to accept premium requests for H-1B petitions that are not reserved for FY19.
“During this temporary suspension, we will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. If a petitioner submits one combined check for the fees for Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, we will reject both forms,” the federal agency informs.
Brief history of the H1B visa
The non-immigrant H1B visa is very popular, since it permits technology companies to hire a large number of foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise, from countries as India and China.
The annual numerical limit cap of the H-1B visa is of 65 thousand visas each fiscal year. Exempt from the cap are the first 20 thousand petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher.
As claimed by the USCIS, between 2007 and 2017, a maximum number of 2.2 million H-1B petitions from high-skilled Indians have been accepted, followed by China with 301,000 petitions throughout the same period.
However, the approval rate in 2017 is considered to be at an all-time low, since it fell below 60%, and with the latest changes, the number of approvals might affect this number to decrease further.
A similar temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions had been applied last year on April 3, 2017, too. The USCIS had only exempted the premium processing which had already been requested prior to April 3. The suspension ended on September 18th, 2017.