H1 Visas in news again: Applications for Fiscal Year 2018 Beginning April 3

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS,  announced on March 15, 2017 that it will accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2018 Beginning April 3 (Link: USCIS Announcement). The announcement added

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.

Congress set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year. An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met. 
USCIS recently announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3 for up to six months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H1B nonimmigrant classification.
In the past years, USCIS had been accepting the applications during first five business days. During the initial few days, they would receive enough petitions to fill in the Congressional mandated 85,000 H-1B visas. Media and immigration consultants are speculating if this year be different.  This 85,000 Congressional mandated limit on H-1B visas include 65,000 in the general category and another 20,000 for foreign students who have masters or higher degree from a US academic institutions.
Top H1 sponsoring companies (link to list) include Indian, American and European software service firms including Infosys, Capgemini, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM, Wipro, Accenture, Tech Mahindra (Americas), Deloitte Consulting, Cognizant Technology Solutions. The top-20 list includes software companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

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Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions to be suspended starting April 3, 2017 : what should you know

Here is a recent announcement by US’s Immigration services that is making headlines

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions starting April 3, 2017 (link)

Image: Reuters

Text of official announcement follows:

Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Who Is Affected

The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.

While premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, we will have to reject both forms.

We will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:

  1. The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and
  2. We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

The suspension of premium processing of H1 Visa applications is making headlines in Tech and business media around the world. This is being seen as yet another move by President Trump’s administration to tighten and control the processing of work-visa applications to the US.

As per GaramChai.com’s report, top 10 Indian Software services companies including Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant and others are the top H1 visa sponsors (list of top sponsors in 2016-2017).

The premium processing basically guarantees a decision in 15 days, which makes it extremely useful for businesses looking to hire someone at short notice. Most employers will not be in a position to wait for 8-10 months for a regular processing.

Although media is focused on the impact of the visas on Software service companies, many of these firms – including IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant – sponsor H1 Visa applications for scores of employees much in advance of specific client requests. Such applications are unlikely to be hit by any backlog. At least not in the long term.

Media reaction to the announcement: