The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that petitions for H-1B visas will be accepted from April 2. The H-1B petition ing is for the fiscal year 2019 beginning October 1, 2018. The federal agency also announced the suspension of premium processing of H-1B visas that are subject to annual caps. This is going to affect a lot of H-1B visa-holders from India. 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 Premium Processing Services offers expedited processing for certain visas pertaining to particular employment-based petitions and applications.
This suspension of premium processing of H-1Bs subject to annual caps is expected to last until September 10. The USCIS also mentioned that it will, however, continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the fiscal 2019 cap.
"We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions or making any other premium processing updates," USCIS said. The USCIS added that the temporary suspension will help the agency reduce processing time of H-1B and will be able to process long-pending petitions, which it has currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years. It will also be able to prioritise adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.
The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US masters degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Additionally, H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related non-profit entities or a non-profit research organisation or a government research organisation are also not subject to this numerical cap.
As an H-1B non-immigrant, the applicant may be admitted for a period of up to three years. The time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years. However, there are some exceptions to it.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. A petitioner may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition if it meets the expedited criteria.
(With PTI inputs)