The US will start accepting applications for H-1B work visas for the fiscal 2018 from April 3 amid the uncertainties surrounding the visa programme, the most sought after by Indian IT firms and professionals. Unlike previous years, the official announcement by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) did not say till when it would continue accepting the H-1B petitions. The department normally has been accepting the application for the first five business days.
In the last few years, the department has received enough petitions to fill in the Congressional mandated 85,000 H-1B visas.
The Congressional mandated limit on H-1B visas include 65,000 in the general category and another 20,000 for those foreign students who have masters or higher degree from a US academic institution.
Those coming to the US on H-1B visas in certain categories for research and scientific institutions are exempted from this limit, but their visa processing is handicapped this year as the premium processing has been suspended by USCIS for six months.
USCIS’s announcement also reflects that there is no changes in H-1B visas this year as was being anticipated in view of some media leaks of a proposed executive order on this work visa.
White House says it is working on a comprehensive immigration reform.
In its statement, USCIS said it begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on April 3.
“All cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 3, for the FY 2018 cap will be rejected,” it said.
Fiscal year 2018 begins on October 1, 2017.
USCIS said H-1B programme allows companies in the US to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialised knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific speciality, or its equivalent.
H-1B speciality occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.
“Congress set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year. An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a US master’s degree or higher. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met,” it said.
“H-1B petitioners must follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence,” it said.
The filing fee for Form I-129 has increased to USD 460, and petitioners no longer have 14 days to correct a dishonoured payment.
The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American firms to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year.
During his election campaign, President Donald Trump had promised to increase oversight of our H-1B and L-1 visa programmes.
The Trump administration this month temporarily suspended the expedited premium processing of H-1B visas.
Premium processing ensures quick response (within 15 days) from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). A standard processing of H1B visa normally takes three to six months.
The suspension will be effective from April 3, and may last up to six months.