As COVID-19 Rages, USCIS Locks Down Immigration Processes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has temporarily suspended all in-person activities at its offices. That lockdown, which is related to the current COVID-19 pandemic and scheduled to extend until April 1 (and may continue beyond that), will grind many U.S. immigration processes to a halt.

In addition, USCIS also announced that premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2021 will be temporarily suspended. However, the agency states that the suspension has more to do with processing times than COVID-19. “This temporary suspension is similar to last year’s suspension and will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times,” the agency explained on its website

“USCIS will resume premium processing for FY 2021 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status from F-1 nonimmigrant status no later than May 27, 2020, and will notify the public before premium processing resumes for these petitions,” the note continued. “The earliest date that USCIS will resume premium processing for all other FY 2021 cap-subject H-1B petitions is June 29, 2020.”

USCIS has suspended premium processing (which means a “guaranteed” 15-day processing time) before. In those instances, the agency also claimed that the suspension would allow it to process an enormous backlog of petitions. Although the action has helped trigger lawsuits from companies that rely on the H-1B visa for sourcing highly skilled workers, USCIS has insisted repeatedly that it has broad authority to set its own limits. 

A suspension renders it more difficult for petitioners to obtain H-1B visas, and those who already hold a visa may find it harder to jump jobs or transfer to a new company office in a different state. COVID-19 may have a substantial impact on things, as well; for example, if a firm shifts to a remote-work policy or adjusts the assigned tasks of a particular H-1B holder, it may lead to additional paperwork, although expert opinions on that front differ.

“No one was prepared for this to be coming down the pipeline,” Shev Dalal-Dheini, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Associationtold the Mercury News recently

But others don’t think that virus-driven workplace changes will ultimately have that much of an effect on the bulk of H-1B holders. “For an H-1B employee, an amended petition or LCA [labor condition application] should not be required as long as the employee is working in the same capacity and within typical commuting distance of the work location on the original petition and LCA,” William Stock of Klasko Immigration Law Partners recently told Forbes.

USCIS is denying an increasing number of new H-1B visa applications, in addition to continuing-employment onesThe rise of COVID-19 could disrupt things further, especially if it leads many companies to pull back on hiring. Again, nobody is quite sure how this process will play out, although the tech industry as a whole is hoping that this pandemic crisis is over as soon as possible. 

12 Responses to “As COVID-19 Rages, USCIS Locks Down Immigration Processes”

  1. Richard

    Agree with above comment, get rid of a the totally fallacious H1B program which we never needed in this country. There are plenty of qualified Americans, and pay them a fair wage. Stop the cheap labor coming from India and other countries.

  2. Stop the Indian Tech Takeover

    Good news, for the short-term. Unfortunately H1-B is becoming irrelevant as corporations are off-shoring entire software development units to India. Leadership at one company had the nerve to describe India as it’s “heart” because of the number of American jobs they’ve taken over. Talk about galling corporate arrogance.

  3. For IT, if you can put it on the wire why hire, you don’t need the person on-site, less H-1B’s present. But the job still went to cheaper labor in another country.

  4. Sure, reduce the number of H1b visas. Then, reconsider what exactly you think can be offshored. What isn’t really understood is the complete lack of ‘ownership’ seen in most offshore development. The coders want to code to specs – they don’t review, analyze or consider long-term maintenance and when they’re done they are not prepared to support the results. As a production support team, beware! The lack of ownership, the refusal to consider all inter-related processes and strict adherence to an often-incomplete or inaccurate SLA document leads to unexpected outages and errors. Then, too, the issue of legal responsibility for Personal Information is a huge concern. We’re seen off-shored departments returned on-shore for these reasons.

  5. Hopefully these treasonous corporations will suffer the same fate as Boeing when they off-shored the building of the pieces of the “Dreamliner” which turned into a nightmare – 3 years behind schedule and billions correcting faulty parts. In reality the corporate charter of companies that want cheap foreign labor should be revoked.

    The primary reason to off-shore – the insatiable greed of these CEO’s et al and the vampires of Wall Street. I think Cicero said it best …

    “A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious.
    But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at
    the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries
    his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those
    within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through
    all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.
    For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents
    familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments,
    he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of
    all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and
    unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he
    infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist.
    A murderer is less to fear.”

    Marcus Tullius Cicero

  6. Hired qualified Americans first, we went to college here, took any jobs until we finally got a good paying job, ONLY to lose it to OUTSOURCING / H1-B (Insourcing). However, AMERICA is paying for quality with this OUTSOURCING / INSOURCING, just ask Boeing who wrote the code for the MAX. How much money did they save?

  7. H1B & Offshore work – is a huge drain on American citizen jobs and salary levels. Not only is Offshoring affecting our salaries but I also see an even greater danger for the firm that decides to offshore their computer systems and the strategic and intellectual property that goes hand-in-hand with it:
    A company’s competitive edge is based on the skills and intellectual property they have acquired over the years. In a word – it is “Strategic” and goes to the very core/sustainability of that firm. Before the internet existed (pre-offshore) and IT was done “in-house” – companies did whatever they could to ensure/protect their corporate data assets (software, systems, data, etc) – i.e. that they were safe, secure and certainly not available to anyone outside of their firm (yes there certainly were consultants – however, they were from U.S. firms/citizens who were well within the sphere of our American constitutional/legal system).
    Now with the use of Offshoring, a firm’s data (strategic intellectual property) is accessed by people that are not only not employees of that firm, but also are people found anywhere in the world (India the most) who with the click of a mouse/blink-of-an-eye, can copy that intellectual/strategic property and the next thing you know 2 or 3 years down the road another company(s) has suddenly sprung up – and that U.S. company that offshored their technology is wondering – where did all this competition come from ? – why are we losing market share at such an alarming rate? (and never knowing that their intellectual property/software & data assets – that are foundational to their competitive survival – were simply copied (detected or undetected ) in an instant and in the hands of some new competitors).

    This H1B and offshoring model is simply damaging to the very fabric of the future/existence/viability of our American economic way of life and a firm’s decision makers execs should be held accountable and changes made to hire American citizens on American soil.