Non-US citizens seeking temporary jobs at US high-tech firms will undergo a longer visa approval process after US President Donald Trump’s administration announced it will temporarily suspend expedited applications for H-1B visas.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday said that from April 3 it would suspend “premium processing” for up to six months.
The expedited procedure allows applicants to be eligible for visa approvals within 15 days, instead of a regular review period that can last for up to a few months.
The H-1B non-immigrant visa allows US companies to employ graduate-level workers in several specialized fields, including information technology, medicine, engineering and mathematics.
USCIS said that during the suspension period, individuals still can request expedited consideration, but must meet certain criteria, such as humanitarian reasons, an emergency situation or the prospect of severe financial loss to a company or individual.
The US caps H-1B visas at 65,000 a year, with an additional 20,000 allowed for those who have earned advanced college degrees in the US.
The visa is valid for three years, but can be extended for an additional three years.
USCIS said the visas go to scientists, engineers, computer programmers or anyone “in specialty occupations that require the theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.”
Most of which are snapped up by Indian outsourcers whose employees fill a skill gap in US engineering.
Applications are vastly oversubscribed and are allocated via a lottery system.
The agency said that suspending premium processing will allow it to reduce a backlog of long-pending visa petitions and thus reduce overall H-1B processing times.
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