U.S. to temporarily suspend premium processing of H-1B from April 3

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. And some top American companies and Indian outsourcing companies are among the largest users of this category of skilled worker visas.

This reform came up a day after a NASSCOM delegation concluded its trip to the United States during which they met several United States lawmakers to sensitise them about the importance of H-1B and L1 visas.

Photograph of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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The US decision to suspend priority processing of H-1B visas would require Indian companies to better plan onsite staffing of critical resources, as the move would mean longer waiting time for employees to be deployed at client locations. In 2015, nearly half of the 537,450 H-1B visas issued went to Indians. By temporarily suspending premium processing, the agency said it will be able to process long-pending petitions, which it has now been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years.

While USCIS officials referred to the suspension of premium processing as routine - and the agency has done so in the past to clear backlogs in visa applications - the length of the suspension is not normal, according to SFGate.

Apparently, the reason for this temporary suspension is to "process long-pending petitions". The temporary suspension, it said, will enable it to "process long-pending petitions, which we have now been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years". The timing of the USCIS announcement, within hours of an Indian foreign ministry delegation saying it had received a positive response from the United States on H-1B visas, also raised some eyebrows.

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The statement said that due to the surge in H-1B petitions, USCIS made a decision to temporarily halt the premium processing service. More than half the applications come from India. Americans are unable to vie for the positions offered through H-1B visas-a point critics are trying to resolve through new legislation.

Applicants are still allowed to request expedition of an H-1B petition, if they fall under at least one of the criterion listed by them, following which, each expedite requests will be reviewed individually by the department.

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