The US has extended the suspension of the premium H-1B visa issuance by five more months, as a part of its efforts to tighten its immigration policies.
Premium processing is a feature that decreases the usual processing time of H-1B visa petitions from an average of six months to 15 calendar days for a fee of USD 1,225 (Rs. 86,181). The suspension was announced by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and is expected to last until February 19 next year.
The USCIS said the temporary suspension will help it reduce overall H-1B processing times by allowing it to process long-pending petitions. It is reported that the temporary suspension will also allow the agency to be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.
The H1-B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master's degree or higher are exempt from the cap. According to the USCIS, between 2007 and 2017, it received the maximum number of 2.2 million H-1B petitions from high-skilled Indians. India was followed by China with 301,000 H-1B petitions during the same period.
The Trump government has also proposed a rule to revoke work permits of H1B spouses - popularly called H4 EAD. The proposal is currently in "final clearance and review" process and senior officers of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working out the fine print of the terms of approval.
Recently, members of the Business Roundtable including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, President and CEO of Mastercard Ajay Banga and Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems Chuck Robbins have written a letter to US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen stating "Confusion around US immigration policy is creates anxiety for employees who follow the law." The Business Roundtable, an association of Chief Executive Officers of America's leading companies, told Nielsen yesterday that "inconsistent government action and uncertainty undermines economic growth and American competitiveness."