H-1B visas allow employers to bring in skilled foreign workers; about 85,000 will be given out this year. The visas are in high demand and given out by lottery. It can take six months or longer for an application to be reviewed.
But the government announced Friday that, as of April 3, it will suspend the “premium processing” option, which ensures an application will be reviewed within 15 days. It costs $1,225.
Trump has accused companies of abusing the H-1B program as a way to hire foreign workers who take jobs away from Americans, at lower salaries.
The Trump administration says it’s doing away with quick-turn processing so it can sort through a large backlog of applications and try to “reduce overall H-1B processing times.”
Immigration lawyers said Saturday that the change will leave many people and companies in limbo.
“The message specifically mentions they want to bring down the backlogged time, but I worry about my clients, employers and individuals who will be affected by these delays,” said Tahmina Watson of Watson Immigration Law. “This suspension is not good for American businesses by any means.”
Watson said “I strongly suspect delays will continue.”
H-1Bs are at the center of controversy as President Trump vows to deliver on campaign promises to reduce immigration.
There are several efforts in Congress to change how the H-1B program works. One bipartisan bill would reform the program by instructing officials to grant visas on merit, rather than through lottery.
Neil Ruiz, executive director of the Center for Law, Economics and Finance at George Washington University, said the Trump administration’s decision to stop expedited processing could be the first step away from the lottery system.
“I think that removing premium processing may allow the administration to pick who to prioritize in the wait times for H-1B visas,” Ruiz told CNNMoney.
By Jackie Wattles and Parija Kavilanz for CNNMoney
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