The H-1B visa is making headlines with its six-month deep freeze. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is temporarily halting premium processing for all Fiscal Year 2019 cap-subject petitions. This includes exemption-seeking petitions for those with a master’s degree or higher credential obtained in the United States. Acceptance for H-1B petitions begins on April 2, 2018. The suspension will last until September 10, 2018.
It’s not unusual for the USCIS to delay premium processing. For the past several years, employers received an influx of H-1B petitions. According to USCIS, officials collect around 200,000 visa petitions despite 85,000 visas being available each year. A source from the Boston law firm Fragomen expressed that “the USCIS is only now finishing up its processing of H-1B cap cases filed at this time last year.” This may be due to an increase in Request for Evidence (RFEs) as well as a reflection of the agency’s new mission statement.
While the postponement ensures the USCIS has time to process high volumes of filings, this impacts companies who rely on foreign contractors. Organizations will need to find alternative solutions or meet USCIS expectations for visa petitioners. Visa holders have their own challenges to meet as well. With recent restrictions of the H1-B visa program, foreign contractors seeking visas will have to provide documentation for third-party assignments.