U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions. That means a “guaranteed” 15-day processing time or USCIS will refund the petitioner’s premium processing fee.
USCIS has gradually re-opened premium processing after suspending it in early 2017. In February, the agency re-opened it for all petitions filed before Dec. 21, 2018.
The suspension made it more difficult for petitioners to obtain H-1B visas; it also made it harder for H-1B visa holders to jump jobs or even move to new company offices. USCIS has claimed it needed the suspension to process an enormous backlog of petitions.
That suspension aggravated companies that depend on H-1B premium processing to meet their staffing needs. Indeed, outsourcing and consulting companies have recently filed more than 40 lawsuits against the federal government over the H-1B program, according to Bloomberg Law. In addition to issues related to premium processing, these firms have claimed an issue with USCIS “aggressively” denying H-1B applications.
In response to lawsuits and other complaints, USCIS has insisted it has broad authority to set time limits on visas. “While an H-1B petition may be approved for up to three years, USCIS will, in its discretion, generally limit the approval period to the length of time demonstrated that the beneficiary will be placed in non-speculative work and that the petitioner will maintain the requisite employer-employee relationship,” the agency wrote in a February 2018 memo, “as documented by contracts, statements of work, and other similar types of evidence.”
According to data released by USCIS, the number of H-1B applications hit with an RFE (Request For Evidence) shot up in the first quarter of fiscal 2019, even as approvals of completed applications hit with an RFE declined noticeably year-over-year. In other words, premium processing might have re-opened, but some companies will face additional scrutiny.
Meanwhile, tech pros say they’re seeing the effects of the Trump administration’s immigration-policy changes. In the most recent HackerRank DevSkills report, for instance, some 25 percent of tech pros said the administration’s immigration policies had discouraged them or someone they know from applying to jobs in the U.S. Nearly one-fifth (17.20 percent) were unable to get a visa to work in the United States.