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US temporarily suspends premium processing of H-1B visa

The order becomes effective from April 3 and could last up to six months

March 6, 2017: The US is temporarily suspending quicker process for H-1B visas. Under the current system, companies submitting applications for H-1B visas for potential employees can pay extra for expedited processing, which is referred to as premium processing.

Processing of regular H1-B applications which aren’t premium takes between three to six months. The suspension is effective April 3, and could last up to six months, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The H-1B visa programme is the main pathway for highly skilled foreigners to work in US companies. The visas are doled out by a lottery and the number of applicants continues to swell each year with outsourcing firms flooding the system.

There have been calls for reform of visas for highly skilled workers. There is a proposal to eliminate the lottery system in favour of a preference system created by USCIS to give priority to foreign students educated in the US. This is to weed out foreign outsourcing firms, which are said to exploit the system.

These visas are used extensively by tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Apple. President Trump has been reported to be considering larger restrictions on the H-1B program, to address concerns that the program is taking jobs away from domestic tech workers.

According to the earlier draft memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Trump’s larger overhaul would require companies to attempt to hire American workers first. If they did recruit foreign workers, priority would be given to the highest-paid, in an effort to open entry-level positions to Americans.

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