US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Monday that it will be resuming premium processing for H-1B visa petitions. However, with the previously declared annual cap of 65,000 visa petitions for 2018 already met, only certain groups of applicants may push through with their visa processing.
What is the H-1B Visa?
The H-1B brings allows foreign workers in highly specialized fields to enter the United States and work in the country, as provided by section 101(a)(17)(H) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The specialized workers in demand include individual whose expertise are in technology, accounting, academic research, or other fields “requiring specific theoretical and technical expertise.”
However, the H-1B is a non-immigrant visa and thus does not provide residence to foreign workers beyond their employment period. In other words, once an immigrant worker’s contract has ended, they need to return home.
Special caps exist for workers with expertise or circumstances beyond those mentioned above. What’s called the “master’s cap,” comprising 20,000 petitions separate from the regular yearly cap, have been allocated for workers with a master’s or other higher educational degree acquired in the US. Additionally, H-1B visa petitions filed on behalf of physicians provided by the Conrad 30 waiver program, government agency waivers, and certain other H-1B petitions will see a resumption of premium processing.
Not everyone will have the chance to acquire the H-1B this year, however, as the processing for all other visa applications has been suspended temporarily. This would include petitions for extensions of stay for existing visa holders, which are currently on hold until further notice.
All H-1B petitions are nonetheless reviewed on a case-to-case basis, so there are limitations that bar remaining petitioners from expediting their applications and defer said requests to the discretion of USCIS office leadership.
H-1B visa petitions are guaranteed to finish processing in 30 days. However, companies sponsoring the visa petitions can pay an extra amount to expedite the process – cutting it down from 30 days to 15 days. Should the USCIS exceed the 15-calendar-day guaranteed premium processing time, the petitioner’s premium processing service fee will be refunded while expedited processing continues nonetheless.
The announcement follows President Donald Trump’s issuance of an executive order cracking down on supposed “visa abuses,” temporarily putting the processing of H-1B visa petitions on hold. The USCIS, however, counteracted this decision and resumed premium processing in July.
The exact date the USCIS will be accepting requests for premium processing for H-1B petitions not subject to the 2018 annual cap will be announced soon.
If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.