NAICU Washington Update

Expedited Processing of H-1B Visas Suspended

May 03, 2017

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency announced it was suspending expedited processing of H-1B visas as part of a continuing effort to curb “fraud and abuse” in that program.  This is the most recent of several actions taken by the Trump Administration to further restrict the H-1B visa program in order to control outsourced jobs that could be filled by U.S. citizens.

According to the USCIS notice, the suspension, which could last up to six months, will help the agency reduce overall processing times.  The suspension will allow the agency to process long-pending petitions, which have been backlogged due to the high volume of premium processing requests over the past few years.  USCIS says the suspension will apply to all Form I-907 H-1B premium processing requests filed on or after April 3, 2017.

USCIS issued additional guidance after the initial announcement clarifying the circumstances under which consideration of expedited processing requests will still be allowed.  Emergency situations, humanitarian considerations, and severe financial loss are among the criteria where expedited processing will remain available during the suspension.

Several higher education organizations submitted comments to USCIS stating their concerns with the freeze of expedited processing and the effects it will have on hiring key medical and research faculty, post-doctoral associates, and scientists at many institutions.

The agency also announced that, for the fifth consecutive year, it had reached its congressionally mandated threshold of 85,000 visas for the fiscal year in just five days. 

In addition to the processing suspension, the administration is now requiring additional information for computer programmers applying for H-1B visas to prove the jobs are complicated and require a very specific set of skills not widely available among computer programmers.  Also, the Justice Department recently warned employers applying for the visas not to discriminate against U.S. workers.

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