H1B visa application process will start on April 2, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced. The non-immigrant H1B visa is popular among Indian IT professionals, and allows technology companies hire large number of employees from countries such as India and China. However, the USCIS in its announcement said H1B visa premium processing, which is subject to annual caps, will be suspended temporarily in a bid to reduce overall processing time. The visa application filing is for the fiscal year 2019 beginning October 1, 2018.
The suspension of premium processing of all H1B petitions which are subject to the annual caps is expected to last until September 10, 2018. During this time, the USCIS said it will continue to accept premium processing requests for petitions that are not subject to the fiscal 2019 cap.
"We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for cap-subject H1B petitions or making any other premium processing updates," it said.
At the same time, the USCIS said while premium processing is suspended, a petitioner may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H1B petition if it meets the expedited criteria.
By temporarily suspending premium processing, the USCIS said it will be able to process long-pending petitions, which it has 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; and prioritise adjudication of H1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.
As an H1B non-immigrant, the applicant may be admitted for a period of up to three years. The time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years. However, there are some exceptions to it.
The H1B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master's degree or higher are exempt from the cap.
Additionally, H1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities or a nonprofit research organisation or a government research organisation are not subject to this numerical cap.
According to the USCIS, between 2007 and 2017, it received the maximum number of 2.2 million H1B petitions from high-skilled Indians. India was followed by China with 301,000 petitions during the same period.