Sanwar Ali comment:
With the economy suffering around the World due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic some H1B visa workers are increasingly worried that they will lose their jobs. The H1B visa is to work for a particular employer. Therefore if you lose your job it is likely that you will either need to find a new employer or eventually leave the US. Fortunately, there is a lengthy grace period to find another job.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that premium processing for H1B visa petitions for the 2021 fiscal year has been temporarily suspended. US employers with H1B visa applications will be unable to request premium processing when it begins accepting petitions on April 1, 2020.
Every year since 2017, USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing, a move that the agency says ‘will help to reduce H1B visa processing times overall.’ USCIS has confirmed that until premium processing resumes for the 2021 fiscal year, it will reject any form simultaneously filed with a H1B Form I-129.
Two-phased H1B visa premium processing approach
Premium processing will resume in fiscal year 2021 in a two-phased approach, USCIS said. This is similar to what the agency has done in the past as a measure they claim will better facilitate premium processing requests.
The first phase of premium processing will apply to cap-subject H1B visa petitions, which include those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, requesting to switch from F1 nonimmigrant status. The second phase will include all other cap-subject H1B visa petitions for the 2021 fiscal year.
USCIS stated that premium processing for H1B visa petitions requesting to switch from F1 nonimmigrant status will recommence no later than May 27, 2020 and the public will be notified when premium processing resumes. For all other H1B petitions, premium processing will resume on June 29, 2020.
H1B visa registration system
On March 1, 2020 a new, online H1B visa cap registration system for US employers was launched. The new system requires employers to register basic details of all H1B visa applicants electronically.
A final set of applications is then selected at random through the H1B visa lottery. Once selected, employers can file H1B visa applications for those people chosen.
The new registration system will see changes to the way H1B petitions are reviewed and allocated, with preference given to applications made by candidates with a master’s degree or higher.
Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and overseas visa processing
Amid the coronavirus epidemic, USCIS has suspended the issuing of H1B visas to citizens of India and other countries, with US Consulates around the world on near total lockdown. The US has also issued a travel ban, leading to chaos at a number of US airports.
It’s unknown how long the US visa suspension amid the COVID-19 outbreak will last, but it’s likely to lead to delays in H1B visa filing and processing.
Once premium processing resumes for H1B visa petitions for the 2021 fiscal year, H1B cap-subject applications will be eligible for a premium processing upgrade if accompanied by Form I-907.
“We will notify the public with a confirmed date for resuming premium processing for FY 2021 H1B cap-subject petitions,” a USCIS statement said.
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