A drop in number H-1B applications expected, as USCIS starts accepting visa petitions

Crackdown and increased scrutiny result in fewer cold hiring.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on Monday, has started accepting H-1B visa applications for 2018-2019 fiscal year. Unlike previous years, this year’s processing will be marked by intense scrutiny of applications as proposed by the Trump administration.

In the last few months, the USCIS had, through many announcements, made it clear that this year’s application processing will be one of the toughest and even the slightest of errors could result in rejection of visas.

Because of increased scrutiny on H-1B and the administration’s crackdown on visa abuses, according to immigration lawyers, the number of petitions this year will be fewer than the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

Aparna Dave, an immigration lawyer based in Gaithersburg, MD, told The American Bazaar that most of the petitions she filed were for students who are currently working for US employers on EAD (Employment Authorization Document), or for H4 visa holders (who are spouses of H-1B visa holders) that are authorized to work here.

“Majority of the petitions are for change of status,” she said, adding that employers are reluctant to bring workers from abroad because of the added scrutiny.

“There aren’t many cold hiring this year,” Dave said. “Employers don’t want to take chances because there were so many RFEs (Requests For Evidence) last year.”

The lawyer said, in addition to the USCIS scrutiny while processing the petition, now consulates also subject applicants to more intense scrutiny. “There are a lot of inquiries from consulates,” she said.

As a result, most companies that filed for H-1B visas to bring employees from abroad are the ones who already have offices abroad.

The USCIS is now giving H-1Bs to only those who companies that have reasonably longer contracts. “They need proper client documentation,” Dave said. “You can ask for H-1Bs for only the duration of the contract.”

The 2018-19 of H-1B visa processing, for which the policy memorandum was issued on March 23, states that applications filed by “related entities” —  a parent company, a subsidiary, or even an affiliate —  should specify with proof that there is a real need of foreign experts in fulfilling their business needs. If they fail to meet the criteria set by the USCIS, the application will be rejected.

The USCIS has also warned on its official website that the petitions filed by employers who indulge in filing multiple or duplicative H-1B petitions for the same employee will be rejected and USCIS will not refund the filing fees in such cases.

Each year, the USCIS opens H-1B visa application processing on the first day of April. This year, congressionally mandated quota is 65,000.

An additional 20,000 visas will be issued to applicants who obtained master’s degrees from US universities. In other words, the first 20,000 such petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.

An official press release of the USCIS also said that the premium processing of H-1B visas will be suspended for another six months. The USICS has warned that if applicants submit applications for premium processing (Form I-907) along with the regular I-129 application form, both forms will be rejected.

Under the premium processing of H-1B visas, applicants are informed about their H-1B visa status within 15 days. Those filing for the premium processing pay a fee of $1,225 for the service. Otherwise, the H-1B waiting period could be several months.

While premium processing is suspended, a petitioner may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition if it meets the criteria on the Expedite Criteria, which include

1 Severe financial loss to company or ​person​;​

2 Emergency situation;​

3 Humanitarian reasons;​

4 Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States​;​

5 Department of Defense, or ​n​ational ​i​nterest ​s​ituation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official US government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);​

6 USCIS error; or​

7 Compelling interest of the USCIS.

According to the USCIS, the decision to temporarily suspend the premium processing of H-1B visa had to be taken to reduce the overall processing time of the H-1B petitions. Additionally, the USCIS would utilize that time to decide on H-1B extension cases closer to the deadline.

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