U.S. Begins Premium Processing of H-1B Visa, Slight Relief to Indian IT FirmsFebruary 18, 2019 12:33
(Image source from: The Financial Express)
The premium processing for all H-1B applications registered on or before December 21, 2018, will be recommenced, said the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) earlier this week.
Allegedly in order to clear the backlog in new applications, the process was adjourned in April earlier this year. The application numbers have increased abruptly in the past four years.
The proclamation by the USCIS would bring slight comfort to the Indian Information Technology companies, which are presently going through deficit of talents in the U.S. The programme was highly beneficial to the Indian IT industry.
Premium processing of H-1B visa lets processing of applications in the duration of 15 days for an extra fee of $1,410 per application, not including the base fee.
The move allows employers a faster route to get skilled talent in the U.S. The Donald Trump administration has made momentous changes to the H-1B visa system, as well as reversing the order in which the USCIS selects H-1B petitions. It would as well probably result in increase in number of petitions from applicants with higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.
Citing a long-pending backlog, the immigration agency had suspended premium processing in April earlier this year. But then, it was open for specific categories such as extension of H1B visa with the same employer.
Peter Bendor-Samuel, chief executive officer, at research firm Everest Group, said it is a helpful move for the IT industry.
“The importance of this development goes beyond the reinstatement of the accelerated H-1B application as it signals a change in policy from the administration, with regard to high-skill immigration. The Indian firms will benefit from this,” he said.
Likewise, the USCIS released data over the time taken to process visa applications from financial year 2015. The time taken to process a premium H-1B application rose from 18 days in the last four years to 1 month in Fiscal year 2019 (until October 2018).
The time period taken to process a normal H-1B application also increased from 3.2 months in FY2018 to 5.2 months in FY2019.
The industry body, National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), said it was still assessing the impact of the announcement.
"We are in touch with members to check implications. This only applies to filings prior to December 21, 2018, and does not have any implications on any filing after that, or filings that will happen in the upcoming lottery season," said Shivendra Singh, vice-president, global trade development, Nasscom.
Immigration law firm Fragomen said it was not yet clear what will happen to the premium processing applications filed on or after December 22, 2018.
"The USCIS has not yet announced whether premium processing will be available for the upcoming H1B cap season," it added.
The local hiring by the Indian IT companies in the United States such as Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HCL Technologies, and Wipro, were increased in aftermath to the tightening H-1B visa norms. Though the recent recommencement in premium processing of H-1B visas will be a little alleviation for the IT companies, it will not be sufficient to overcome the demand-supply gap.
“It (resuming premium processing) does not signal a reversal in the Indian firms' need or commitment to hire more U.S. employees. We expect programs such as Infosys' direct hiring from college to continue and accelerate. The need for skilled workers is so great that, even with all these improvements, there is still likely to be a shortage,” added Bendor-Samuel.