NEW DELHI: Indian techies and industry can breathe a sigh of relief as the US has resumed premium, or expedited, processing of H-1B visas in all categories. The service was suspended five months ago as officials struggled to handle a huge rush of applicants.
The suspension+ had been seen as an example of US President Donald Trump‘s election campaign remarks seeking to stop foreign tech workers from coming to the US being translated into action.
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The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing on Monday for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the US fiscal year 2018 cap, a media release said. The Congress-mandated cap is of 65,000 H-1B visas with an extra 20,000 visas for those who have gone through a US college system. H-1B visas are popular with Indian tech professionals who account for almost 70% of the issuances every year.
Premium processing is a “fast” processing service of pending applications, something like a “tatkal” service, for a fee of $1,225. When a petitioner requests for the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time. This is a much-needed luxury for applicants and employers because normal processing takes anything between 3-6 months.
Indian companies have used this time to do a revaluation of their personnel and project requirements, with many technology companies paring down their necessity for H-1B visas. The restoration of the premium processing system is a sign that the Trump administration is getting into the rhythm of things, although the six-month shutdown was an important rethink moment for the Indian tech industry which relies a lot on access to the US.
In the interim, Indian companies have even looked at Europe and other parts of the world for newer markets, an unintended consequence of the processing pause in the US.