USCIS to start accepting H-1B visa petitions from Monday

USCIS has suspended premium processing of H-1B visas.

The United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) will start accepting the applications for filling the H-1B visa quota for the fiscal year 2018 on Monday. If the trend of last few years is to continue, the regular quota of 65,000 visas is expected to receive more than 200,000 applications.

Last year, USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions. The regular cap of 65,000 and an additional 20,000 for the US master’s degree holders were filled within the first five days.

Interestingly, this year’s petitions will be filed in the backdrop of the new administration thinking of bringing regulations in H-1B visa program. A few congressmen have also come up with bills aimed at regulating the existing H-1B visa program.

H-1B program allows US firms to hire skilled foreign works on a temporary basis and the largest beneficiaries of this visa program have been Indian IT employees.

According to a CNBC report that quoted James Crabtree, a visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, the clamping down of H-1B visa program will not make any significant benefit to the US.

Crabtree said, “It doesn’t make a lot of economic sense to deny companies the ability to do this.”

The H-1B program is a boon for American companies that encounter difficulty in sourcing local talents in specialty fields such as science, engineering and information technology. The United State have been facing a shortage of employees with STEM skills. Hence, many companies have been using the H-1B visa program to find temporary workers from the global market to fulfill skilled tasks.

Even the smallest regulation of H-1B visa will have serious implications on Indian IT outsourcing companies like Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services. A majority of US IT firms outsource their H-1B employees through these firms that provide them with Indian nationals with a range of technical roles.

The critics of H-1B visa program have been pointing out that the US companies are misusing it to replace American workers with low-wage foreign employees.

“Domestic workers (in the U.S.) think what the Indian companies, in particular, are doing is what’s called body shopping — they’re taking in Indian workers and giving them jobs that should be given to American workers,” Crabtree told CNBC.

The H-1B employees are also allowed to bring their spouse and children under 21 to the US as dependents. USCIS had announced last month that it is suspending the premium processing facility of all H-1B petitions.

The suspension of premium processing will have a heavy impact on several applicants from India. The premium processing service allowed applicants to get the decision on their H-1B visa status within 15 days by paying an additional fee of $1,225 for the service. Otherwise, the H-1B waiting period could be several months.

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