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US to suspend premium processing of H-1B visas from April 3

Washington: The US on Saturday announced that from April 3 it will temporarily suspend the “premium processing” of H-1B visas that allowed some companies to jump the queue, as part of its efforts to clear the backlog.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would start accepting H-1B visa applications for the fiscal year 2018, beginning October 1, 2017, from April 3. The H-1B visas are widely used by Indian IT majors.

“This temporary suspension will help us reduce overall H-1B processing time,” USCIS said. By temporarily suspending fast processing, USCIS said it would be able to process long-pending petitions.

The pending petitions, which they have currently 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 will be processed. It would also be able to prioritise the adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark. The temporary suspension might last for six months, USCIS said.

For Silicon Valley companies, many of which employ a large number of H-1B holders, this move could signal that the waiting time for approval may get much longer.

Under the current system, a company that is sponsoring a potential employee or the current employee’s H-1B petition may fill out a form to expedite the processing of that petition, the Verge reported.

After paying an additional fee of $1,225 (Rs 82,000) for this service, USCIS responds typically in 15 calendar days, whereas standard H-1B petitions may take anywhere between three to six months to receive a judgement, it said.