H-1B Visa Program Fast Processing Temporarily Suspended Just Before Applications Open

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced another limitation on the H1-B visa program, less than two weeks before the government begins accepting applications for fiscal year 2019. 

The agency said Tuesday that expedited processing for H-1B visa applications will be temporarily suspended until September 10. Premium processing allows companies to pay to speed up the visa-granting process and find out in 15 days if a potential foreign worker will receive an H-1B visa.

Related: H-1B visa program and Trump: How high-skilled immigrants are being threatened by president’s administration

“This temporary suspension will help us reduce overall H-1B processing times,” the agency said in a press release.

Specifically, the suspension will allow the agency to process petitions that have been pending for a long time “due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years,” according to the press release.

The suspension does not apply to premium processing applications from nonprofits and other organizations not subject to the annual cap of 85,000 visas for for-profit companies. H-1B petitions will be accepted starting April 2.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended premium processing before. Last year, the agency halted such processing for a few months, forcing some tech companies to delay projects until they had enough skilled workers to complete them, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The announcement marks the latest way the U.S. government has made it more difficult to obtain the temporary, nonimmigrant work visa. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services memo issued last month stated that applicants had to provide “detailed statements of work or work orders” about any duties an H-1B holder performed at a third-party site and explain why they needed to hire a foreigner.

President Donald Trump reportedly also considered a proposal late last year to block H-1B visa extensions for people awaiting approval of their green cards, which could result in their deportations.