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H-1B Visa Applications Open Up Next Week

It’s busy season for immigration lawyers. On April 3, people can start submitting H-1B visa petitions for the new fiscal year.

The popular visa, beloved by the tech industry, is a pathway for skilled foreigners to work in the U.S. It’s in high demand: Last year, the cap of 85,000 H-1B visas was reached less than a week after the application period opened up. During that time, 236,000 petitions were submitted.

When demand exceeds supply, the visas are awarded through a lottery system.

And this year, there are additional stress factors: The political environment is decidedly less welcoming to foreigners and one of the favored processing options has been put on hold.

For an additional $1,225 fee, premium processing guarantees that an H-1B petition is reviewed within 15 days (if it’s selected in the lottery). According to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ), premium processing filings accounted for 59% of the total H-1B filings in 2016. But in March, USCIS announced it was temporarily freezing that option on April 3.

Non-premium visa petitions can take as much as eight months before they’re approved, immigration lawyers say. USCIS hopes to reduce overall processing times with the temporary freeze.

Premium processing is also the preferred route for people renewing their H-1B visa or transferring to a new employer.

While H-1B holders can work while they wait for renewal or transfer, that period only lasts for 240 days, just under eight months.

USCIS says it will prioritize approvals for people coming up on that time constraint, pointing to an expedited option that’s available on a case-by-case basis.  Still, while waiting, foreign workers are advised not to travel outside the U.S.

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Source: CNN Money

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