Premium H-1B Cap Processing Begins

Highly Skilled immigrationAfter reaching the congressionally-budgeted quota in just the first five days of the opening of the petitioning window on April 1, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began premium processing of H-1B petitions subject to the cap, including petitions seeking exemptions for individuals educated to the master’s degree or higher level. Previously, USCIS announced it would begin the premium processing no later than May 11.

The H-1B petitions currently in process with USCIS are for the issuance of visas for fiscal year 2016. The cap, set by legislators in Washington D.C., is mandated at 65,000. Congress also allows for an additional 20,000 H-1B visa issues for foreign workers who’ve earned a master’s degree from a U.S.-based institution. Advanced degree fields in this mix include science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The current approach USCIS officials take in their premium processing of H-1B petitions is a result of “historic premium processing receipt levels.” By beginning premium processing on Apri 27, USCIS can prioritize data entry for the H-1B visas subject to the cap. These petitions include those that are subject to the cap, including advance-degree exemption petitions.

Other policies around the H-1B nonimmigrant visas also made news earlier this month. Beginning just after Memorial Day—May 26—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin granting employment authorization eligibility to H-4 dependent spouses—those married to H-1B visa holders.

Supporters of the work authorization policy change—including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pitzker– say providing work authorization to foreign-born spouses eases the financial burden of supporting a family on just one income. Each spouse responds this stress with overwhelming frustration. All of this Pitzker wrote in a March 2015 Inc. Magazine story, often feeds wholesale abandonment of years-long abandonment of a years-long investment toward establishing permanent residency and building a life in the United States.

The general support of the tech and business communities for H-1B visas as well as the implementation of much-needed reforms means the H-1B visas will likely remain quite popular for the foreseeable future.

USCIS encourages H-1B applicants to subscribe to email updates.