LegalRegulation

Tech Firms Face Uncertainty As US Suspends Premium Processing For H-1B Visas

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

The suspension could significantly impact tech companies who rely heavily on foreign skilled workers

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has announced that it will be suspending fast-track H-1B visa requests, increasing the immigration uncertainties for American tech companies.

Starting April 3, businesses will not be able to request premium processing for non-immigrant workers in a suspension that “may last” for up to six months.

The move could potentially impact a huge number of technology businesses in the US, with the  H-1B visa programme being the most widely used for high-skill workers who transfer over to American companies.

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Visa suspension

USCIS explains that the suspension “will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt”.

Premium process will continue if the request is filed before 3rd April, but it will be rejected and the fee refunded if it is filed after this date or if action was not taken within the 15-day processing period.

The suspension will apparently help the agency “process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark”.

Silicon Valley companies have not held back in their opposition of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. Apple, Google and Microsoft have offered legal aid to staff affected by the order, while several others have pledged donations to legal efforts in support of immigrants effected.

Uber chief Travis Kalanick said the ban was “wrong and unjust” and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said he was “concerned” about the order, while Dropbox execs described Trump’s actions as “un-American” and “extremely disappointing”.

More recently, 97 firms including the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft signed a brief in a US court in support of a legal action against the travel ban, arguing that it departs from the “principles of fairness and predictability” that have governed the US’ immigration policy.

Quiz: Donald Trump and his relationship with technology