The United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing of H-1B work visas starting in April 2017. The temporary suspension is supposed to only affect the premium processing service, which guarantees that an H-1B application is processed within 15 days.
USCIS explained that it was suspending premium processing in order to go through a backlog of other applications and improve the overall processing times. An ordinary application can take six months or longer. The suspension of premium processing is worrying for workers who may need an approved visa faster in order to have their work continue uninterrupted from another visa, such as a J-Visa.
The suspension of premium processing can also affect how a company or business plans for foreign workers. Without the certainty of this faster processing of H-1B visas, a business may not be able to adequately plan projects that require certain foreign workers with specific expertise.
However, even with the suspension in place, applicants who need to have their H-1B work visas processed more quickly than the time it takes to process a visa in regular time can request expedited processing. However, the applicant has to show that he or she meets the expedited processing criteria.
Changes to the Law
The move by USCIS to suspend premium processing follows H-1B visa changes proposed through the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate in January 2017. This bill proposes several changes to how H-1B visas are awarded, for example, moving away from a lottery system to one where workers are given visas based on USCIS established preferences. The bill would also reduce the length of time an H-1B visa would be valid, and have more reporting requirements for employers. There would be more focus and investigation on work visa fraud.
The use of H-1B visas has been criticized as making it easy for some companies to abuse the system and take advantage of foreign workers. Some outsourcing companies apply for visas on behalf of workers and then pass them on to other companies, taking a large percentage of the worker’s salary afterwards. The changes proposed in the bill are supposed to address issues of fraud and abuse such as these.
However, if the bill becomes law, it will mean significant changes in the way some foreign employees receive working opportunities in the United States. It may also reduce the employment opportunities available for foreign workers because it will be harder or less cost effective for employers to assist foreign workers get work visas.
For some workers who have been working in the country under previous policies need to ensure that they are in compliance with any new rules or laws that may be announced in the coming months or years.
Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney
If you need assistance with a visa application or immigration status change, an experienced immigration attorney may be able to assist you. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California and schedule a consultation.