While no new law or executive order has been passed yet, experts nearly unanimously agree that the H-1B visa programme will most certainly undergo a change, impacting Indian IT companies.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced that it will temporarily suspend its premium processing for all H1-B petitions starting April 3.
"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". The department, in a statement, said that the suspension may last up to six months and that it was a move by the administration to speed up all the applications.
According to the USCIS, this temporary suspension will help it reduce the overall H-1B processing times. According to the release, the department claims to want to "process long-pending petitions, which we have now 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; and prioritise adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark".
The Indian IT industry, which spends over 60 percent of its total exports to the United States, will be hit particularly hard if the bill is enacted into a law, as it heavily relies on H-1B visa workers for sustaining its American operations. The US remains the largest market for the Indian IT industry and it has been faced with several headwinds in recent months, raising questions on the ease of doing business in that country.
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A bipartisan bill introduced this week in Congress calls for reform of visas for highly skilled workers. Even India's foreign secretary has met with USA representatives to explain India's stand.
Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions can not be filed before April 3 this year, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master's advanced degree cap exemption.
The temporary suspension of "premium processing" of H-1B visas will cause some uncertainty for Indian software companies.
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.
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