U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced the suspension of expedited processing for the H-1B visa, a temporary residency option for graduate-level workers in STEM fields including mathematics, medicine, and computer science. The agency regularly suspends quick processing for a few weeks to deal with application backlogs, but the length of this suspension is unusual.
The visa program is particularly popular among tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area, where foreign workers often stay three to six years in computer engineering positions. The fast processing suspension will begin April 3 and last for up to six months, affecting applications for 2018 visas.
A USCIS statement said the suspension is basically routine, designed to allow the agency to "process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark."