Extra-fast “premium processing” of H-1B visas has resumed for all eligible applications, federal authorities said.
The resumption took effect Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced.
The $1,410 fee for speedier handling of H-1B applications pays for processing within 15 days if submitted materials are in order.
The agency suspended the service in April, citing a backlog and surge in applications in recent years. The suspension applied to applications subject to an annual 85,000 cap on new visas, which includes 20,000 for holders of a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. school.
In January, Citizenship and Immigration partially lifted the suspension and resumed premium processing for applications filed in April 2018 for the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery. In February, the agency lifted the suspension for H-1B applications filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018. Now, faster processing will go ahead for applications filed Dec. 22 or afterward, the agency announced Monday.
Immigration-law company Graham Adair predicted that companies with existing backlogged H-1B applications would add thousands of premium processing requests to those applications in coming days. Meanwhile, at least 150,000 applications for this year’s H-1B lottery are expected to start flooding in to Customs and Immigration on April 1. The law firm said on its website that it remained to be seen whether the agency would be able to honor premium processing requests for those applications.
Major tech firms rely heavily on the H-1B to gather top foreign talent and have lobbied for an expansion to the annual cap. Critics point to reported abuses by outsourcers and say those consulting and staffing companies use the visa to obtain cheaper labor from overseas, in some cases placing the workers at major tech firms.
The administration of President Donald Trump has taken aim at the H-1B, applying heightened scrutiny to applications and rejecting and denying them at increased rates.