MUMBAI: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the immigration arm of the US government has announced a phased opening of premium processing for various visa applications.
On June 1, premium processing will be open for all eligible employment-based green card (I-140) applications. From June 8, requests for premium processing can be filed for H-1B applications that are pending adjudication and those that are cap-exempt (certain category of US employers such as higher educational institutions, are not subject to the annual H-1B quotas).
Premium processing for H-1B cap subject applications will not begin until the last phase of the time-line which is expected to start on June 22. These dates may be subject to change, cautions USCIS.
Employers sponsoring H-1B employees find premium processing useful, as USCIS is required to make a decision on an application within 15 days. Currently the fee is $ 1,440 per application, but speculation is that an increase will be announced shortly, especially as USCIS is strapped for funds.
Premium processing also helps take care of the cap-gap situation for international students who post their optional training program are migrating to an H-1B. These students need to stop work on October 1, if their H-1B application is still pending.
H-1B cap visas have an annual quota of 65,000 in the general category and 20,000 in the Masters category (for which beneficiaries holding US advanced degrees are eligible). As mentioned by TOI earlier, for the current filing season – which would enable selected beneficiaries to start work from October 1, USCIS received 2.75 lakh registrations, nearly 67.7% or 1.86 lakh were for those from India. The lottery or random selection process then helps USCIS select the applications to keep to the limited quota.
Meanwhile, more than half of the immigration agency’s 18,700 employees may be furloughed beginning in July. To prevent this and to enable USCIS to carry out its operations, it has asked for a government funding of $ 1.2 billion.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) points out that furloughs of this magnitude will undoubtedly cripple the USCIS’ ability to carry out its mission – work and visa applications, asylum and citizenship/naturalization applications, green cards, and refugee applications will not be processed. USCIS plays an extremely important role in facilitating lawful immigration, helping immigrants attain a legal status as permanent residents and if they meet all criteria, eventually becoming U.S. citizens, it adds.