H-1B visa fast-track processing on hold, but lottery stays
Premium processing of the H-1B visa allows companies to apply for fast-tracking petitions for a higher fee. This is the second time in two years the US has suspended this service.world Updated: Mar 21, 2018 23:23 IST
The United States has suspended premium processing of H-1B visas for 2019, for which applications will be accepted from April 2 and petitions will be randomly selected through electronic lottery as before.
Premium processing allows companies to apply for fast-tracking petitions for a higher fee. This is the second time in two years that the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS), which ru`ns the programme, has suspended it.
But the rest of the H-1B selection process will remain as it is, through a lottery. “The lottery will be conducted as in past years,” wrote Joanne F Talbot of USCIS in response to an email query about changes, if any, specifically the lottery.
She continued: “USCIS uses a computer-generated lottery to randomly select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general cap and the 20,000 cap under the advance degree exemption.”
There are “no changes”, Talbot said, when asked about proposals to end the lottery and replace it with a system that prioritised petitions offering the highest wages to most qualified professionals.
According to the USCIS, it was suspending the service to deal with long-pending petitions.
“This temporary suspension will help us reduce overall H-1B processing time,” it said. The suspension is expected to last until September 10.
The Trump administration has pushed for ending the electronic lottery, arguing it is gamed by companies — naming Indian firms Infosys, TCS and Wipro — that file more petitions than needed to stand a better chance in the random selection.
Indians are the highest recipient of H-1B visas, accounting for more than 70% of those issued in 2016. But a large number of them are generally hired by American companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.