Starting Jan. 29, companies applying for an H-1B visa can again pay extra to get a decision within 15 calendar days.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had suspended premium processing for H-1B visas in April to help clear the application backlog. That suspension was extended in September and was expected to last until Feb. 19.
Premium processing is now back for applications for the 85,000 visas for fiscal year 2019, which includes 20,000 visas for applicants with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution.
The H-1B has become a flashpoint in the immigration debate and a target for President Donald Trump, particularly over use of the visa by outsourcers, which rake in the lion’s share of H-1Bs, mostly for bachelor’s degree holders. Heavily relied upon by large technology companies, the visa has been condemned by critics as a mechanism for supplanting American workers with cheaper foreign labor.
William Stock, a member of Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP, told Forbes late last year that without premium processing, applications typically take five to seven months. Few businesses, he said, could easily wait that long when they’re trying to hire a new foreign worker.
Late last year, USCIS also increased the premium processing fee by about 15 percent, up to $1,410. The fee guarantees an answer within 15 days, but it doesn’t ensure that an applicant will be approved for a visa.
USCIS received 190,098 H-1B applications for fiscal 2019.