Premium Processing of H-1B Visas Resumes, but Business Travelers May Face More Delays

Premium Processing of H-1B Visas Resumes, but Business Travelers May Face More Delays

Back in March, US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it was suspending “premium processing” of H-1B visas, which allows applicants to have their visa applications processed within 15 days as opposed to several months for an additional fee, for up to six months starting April 1. At the time, USCIS said it was doing so to address a backlog in applications, but some observers suspected it was an opening move in a broader crackdown on the skilled worker visa program, of which President Donald Trump has been highly critical.

Fears that this change heralded a permanent slowdown in the H1-B program may have been unwarranted, however. On Friday, USCIS announced that premium processing would resume “as workloads permit,” SHRM’s Roy Maurer reports:

The agency also said that it will resume premium processing for H-1B petitions filed for medical doctors under the Conrad 30 Waiver program beginning June 26. The Conrad 30 program allows certain medical doctors to stay in the United States on temporary visas after completing their medical training to work in rural and urban areas that have a shortage of physicians.

At the same time, Maurer adds, wait times may increase for foreign business travelers coming to the US, due to an executive order Trump signed last week with little fanfare:

President Donald Trump’s administration revoked a provision put in place to expedite visa processing times for business travelers coming to the U.S. in the interest of national security and “careful, accurate vetting of visa applicants.”

The executive order, issued quietly June 21, deletes a subsection of a 2012 order from then-President Barack Obama that directed the State Department to “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.” The White House said that removing the guideline gives the State Department flexibility to decide when longer processing times may be appropriate, instead of forcing it into a “rushed process to accommodate an arbitrary deadline.”