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USCIS suspends expedited H1-B visa processing

The H1-B visa program allows employers in Texas and around the country in certain industries to hire foreign workers when specialized skills are required, but obtaining the necessary documentation is challenging for technology, engineering and research firms because only 85,000 of the employment-based visas are issued each year. Companies can pay an additional fee to speed up their paperwork and find out within 15 days whether or not their H1-B visa applications will be approved, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on March 20 that expedited processing was being suspended until Sept. 10.

The agency says that the temporary suspension is needed to deal with a backlog of H1-B visa applications and will reduce overall processing times. The program has become extremely popular in recent years and demand for expedited paperwork processing has soared according to the agency. The suspension will not apply to organizations, such as nonprofit groups, that are not subject to the annual H1-B visa cap.

The USCIS announcement is unlikely to please employers. When expedited employment-based visa processing was suspended in April 2017, several technology companies decided to delay upcoming projects or put research work on hold until they could be sure that enough skilled workers would be available to complete the assignments. The USCIS announcement comes just two weeks before the agency begins accepting H1-B visa applications for the 2019 fiscal year.

Dealing with federal bureaucracy can be a frustrating experience for both employers and those who wish to work and live legally in the United States. Attorneys with immigration law experience could help employers to avoid unnecessary delays by checking their H1-B visa applications before they are submitted to ensure that all of the conditions required for approval have been met.

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