H1B premium processing ends today, 6 month freeze likely

H1B premium processing goes into deep freeze starting today April 3, 2017 and the suspension may last likely at least 6 months which means almost the entire remaining months in 2017 are practically ruled out for H1B workers trying to push through extensions at a faster pace for a higher (premium) payout. Given the new challenges and political equations that will be in play by the time the leaves turn red in America this year, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are unlikely candidates for a resurrection of the premium processing regime.

 H1B premium processing ends today, 6 month freeze likely

America First, H1B can wait/ Representational image, AFP

With an alert saying “we will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions,” the United Stated Immigration and Citizenship Services has put the official stamp on another policy tightening measure minus the drama and legal pushback that awaits any Executive Order from President Trump.

Compared with the string of slapdowns that Trump has got for his fire breathing Executive Orders, a series of measures to rein in H1B workers has quietly come into force, pushing the Indian information techonolgy’s body shopping industry scrambling to regroup.

Minus the drama that has accompanied Trump’s other moves on immigration, the H1B clampdown has been systematic and efficient from the administration’s point of view. Applicants for H1B visa stamping are taking their paperwork more seriously, cutting back on non essential travel for fear of border control snafus, due diligence at immigration checkpoints are taking longer for each case, more questions are being asked, each one more pointed, extra detailing on background checks or potential grey areas is a daily reality and the luxury of the drop box facility is also gone at consulates around the the world.

For the H1B community, the first rush of Executive Orders during Trump’s 70 odd days in office so far sent some tough signals. Soon enough, as Trump’s most ambitious bills began running into a dumpster fire in the Congress, H1B workers have been cautiously optimistic that Trump’s still stuck in his campaign while deadlock in Congress-led politics will give them respite. However, the unfoling reality for H1B workers and their spouses is slightly different - there have been real clampdowns that affect the way they live, work, travel and assess their role in Ameirca.

Many more of Trump’s moves may be blocked by courts, no other President so early in his first term has suffered such low approval ratings but all this counts for nothing when H1B workers line up at consulates or border control checkposts in American airports - their tension is palpable and it’s likely that it will stay that way for a while.

The H1B visa has never been in sharper focus before in America. Barely two weeks ago, it headlined the iconic CBS Show 60 Minutes with ‘victims’ of the H1B visa slamming the loopholes which stack odds against locals.

The man who helped write the Immigration Act of 1990, which created the H-1B program said on the show that he’s “outraged at how the H-1B has been hijacked as the main highway to bring people from abroad and displace Americans.”

H1B baiters believe the trouble begins from a 1998 amendment to the law which allows companies that reply on H1B workers to ignore the primacy of protecting American jobs as long as they pay the foreign workers at least $60,000 a year - a pittance in the tech industry which find few takers locally.

As things stand, significant shifts on the H1B program would likely need a complex rulemaking process and big changes will end up in court. Yet, the shoe is already biting. The fire breathing immigration messaging from Trump has found a ready ally in the border control department and the USICS which have tightened screws at consulates around the world.

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Updated Date: Apr 03, 2017 16:23:40 IST