Just a couple of hours ago, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, USICS, announced that starting with April 3, 2017, All the H1B Premium Processing Applications are now suspended.
This news has come as a panic to many F1-OPT Students and H1B applicants, as some of them are mistakenly considering it as a suspension of the H1B program itself. Contrary to this, USICS has clearly mentioned that this is a suspension on the “premium processing” of the program and not the actual applications itself.
So what does the USICS H1B premium Suspension actually mean?
H1B applications are generally done using the USICS designated form I-129. This is a petition form for the application for the H1-B visa, which as you know, is done through a lottery process in the recent years.
Sometimes, companies want to expedite the results of the H1B lottery which can take upto October as the results are randomly dispatched to thousands of applicants. This is done through a program call H1B premium processing, which is nothing but delivering the results in about 20 days from the lottery. Contrary to what some may believe, the premium program does not increase one’s chances for the lottery.
The application for the premium processing is done through form I-907 which comes with an application fee of $1225.
With this announcement, USICS has made it clear that for the applications of year 17-18 premium processing is no longer possible. This is a temporary suspension and the premium processing might come back next year.
Who is affected?
All the candidates applying for H1B lottery in the CAP year 17-18 are affected by this suspension.
Only the LCA applications already done before April 3, 2017 (which means LCA applications already filed last year and pending decisions) are not affected by this suspension.
So how are H1B companies and candidates impacted?
Due to this suspension, the potential hit will be taken by large outsourcing companies from India like TCS, Infosys etc which petition for thousands of applications for the H1B visa each year.
As the Premium processing fee is refundable subject to a non-selection of visa, companies arguably were taking advantage of this and petitioning more and more applications irrespective of actual project requirements.
Now that premium processing is suspended, companies may be averse to make applications as high as 30000 (yes! Infy applied 33289 LCAs last year) as the results may take as long as October to come out.
As for the candidates themselves, delayed processing can only mean increased frustration. While this step may not impact F1 OPT students, except those who are in their final months of OPT. For other candidates not part of the Masters degree exception, this is indeed bad news.
Why USICS suspended premium processing?
According to USICS website, the suspension has been put into place to prioritize the processing of actually applications that need expedition, meaning those that are nearing their 240 day mark.
In the long run, this step will actually help process individual applications faster.
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