A statement on Friday from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, said it would temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions from April 3. Premium processing is akin to "tatkaal" scheme for H-1B visas: A decision is made on each application within 15 calendar days for a fee of $1,225 under this programme. In the normal course, an application usually takes between three to six months for processing.
USCIS said the suspension may last up to six months and will help it "process long-pending petitions that we have currently been unable to process due to high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and prioritise adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark." Experts believe the move would slow down onsite deployment of skilled professionals from India.
"This slows the professional down by three months. The impact will call for a lot more forward planning for companies. In many cases, H-1Bs are often needed quickly so this will create significant difficulties for India IT firms dealing with US clients. I anticipate a huge influx of visa application between now and April 1," Phil Fersht, chief executive at research firm HfS Research told ET in an email response.
At present, the US has a cap of 65,000 visas for the general category under H-1B visas and allows a further 20,000 people who have a US master's degree from an accredited institution to also apply. The USCIS uses a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions.
IT industry body National Association of Software and Services Companies agreed the suspension would create some process delays for the companies - Indian and American - but does not see it as a significant impediment.
"This has happened in the past for a couple of months to clear the backlog and we will work with the US Embassy in India to ensure that mobility of skilled talent is not affected due to process issues," Nasscom told ET in an email response.
The most impact to the IT industry will be on fresh H-1B applicants, said Rajiv Dabhadkar, founder of the National Organisation for Software and Technology Professionals, which works for Indian workers overseas.
"Applications will be scrutinised more now.There will be an impact on next year's lottery because of this greater scrutiny," he said.
Infosys, Wipro, HCL and Tech Mahindra didn't respond to a request for comment for this report. The timing of the USCIS announcement, within hours of an Indian foreign ministry delegation saying it had received a positive response from the US on H-1B visas, also raised some eyebrows.
(With inputs from Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury in New Delhi)
28 Comments on this Story
Janardhan Rao1458 days ago
Why Dollar, earn in own currency rupee. Don''t disrespect your own currency.
Praveen1458 days ago
Whats wrong in this , This happened in past 2015 also and still whoever have approved petition can travel.
Raj ?RM? M1458 days ago
Only cream survives and rest all have to leave back and do documentation and trainings.