The Trump administration is tightening H-1B visa rules even more.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced an extension to its temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions. The extension, which kicked in Sept. 11, will run through February 19, 2019.
“While H-1B premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service filed with an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker,” reads a note on the USCIS website. “If a petitioner submits one combined check for the Form I-907 and Form I‑129 H-1B fees, both forms will be rejected.”
For those who don’t follow the minutiae of the visa system very closely, such “premium processing” allows people (often companies acting on behalf of an applicant) to speed up the review of a petition. The extension will make it difficult for H-1B holders to quickly jump jobs or move to a new company office.
“The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers (excluding cap-exempt filings as noted below),” added the USCIS note.
USCIS initially claimed that the suspension, announced in March 2017, would give it space to clear through a huge backlog of petitions and “prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.” At the time, however, some critics saw an ulterior motive in the decision.
“I think that removing premium processing may allow the administration to pick who to prioritize in the wait times for H-1B visas,” Neil Ruiz, executive director of the Center for Law, Economics and Finance at George Washington University, told CNN at the time.
Many companies claim that the visa allows them to hire workers otherwise unobtainable, but many workers (and more than a few pundits) assert that the system is routinely abused to displace American employees in favor of cheaper labor. During the 2016 campaign season, then-candidate Donald Trump hinted that he would gut the H-1B program. “We shouldn’t have it, it’s very, very bad for workers,” he said. “It’s unfair to our workers and we should end it.”
Although some expected, based on those words, that President Trump would initiate a major overhaul of the visa system, changes have been largely incremental, and big tech companies actually used more H-1Bs between 2016 and 2017.