Month: April 2017

by CYA CYA 47 Comments


On Tuesday, President Trump unveiled his latest executive order, entitled “Buy American and Hire American,” through which he directs several executive agencies to review the H-1B visa program. Underlining President Trump’s order is the conclusion that buying American-made goods will “promote economic and national security” and “help stimulate economic growth,” and that hiring American workers will “create higher wages and employment rates for workers in the United States.”

Through the H-1B program, USCIS issues 85,000 visas annually to persons with “highly specialized knowledge.” Though Congress designed the program to allow domestic employers to recruit workers from abroad when they could not find qualified domestic laborers, some have argued that the program incentivizes employers to hire foreign-born workers at low wages.

With the intent to address this perceived “widespread abuse,” Trump’s latest order instructs federal agency heads—including the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Homeland Security—to review the H-1B program and ‘suggest reforms to help ensure that the H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” While the executive order does not actually provide for any changes in the H-1B program, many have seen the order as a first-step towards reform efforts.


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Suspension of H-1B Premium Processing Costs USCIS up to $100 Million

Last week, USCIS suspended the premium processing program for H-1B petitions, a program that would normally allow employers to pay extra to reduce the wait time from as long as eight months to only two weeks. Although this suspension won’t affect the number of H-1B visas ultimately issued, it will increase wait times and reduce the amount of funding the agency receives from fees. According to USCIS, the suspension of premium processing will result in up to $100 million in lost fees.

Premium processing began in 2000 in an attempt to both pay for processing and provide needed funds to modernize the agency’s processing system. The modernization program, known as “ELIS,” or Electronic Immigration System, remains over budget and is projected to be completed in March of 2019, five years after its initially scheduled completion date. Without the continued revenue from premium processing fees, however, it is unclear if USCIS will be able to complete the modernization program within the revised timeframe.