For businesses that tend to hire a significant number of lawful permanent residents to meet their personnel needs, issues like visa processing are of immense importance to the completion of Form I-9 documents and related work authorization processes. When regulations or temporary government actions that slow down or otherwise impede this process come into effect, it can be extremely problematic, and potentially lead to compliance failures.
With that in mind, many businesses will likely be pleased by the Department of Homeland Security's recent announcement that expedited H-1B visa petition processing will resume in the near future. Just a few months ago, the department had stopped processing these petitions for apparent reasons of national security, but the latest departmental statement indicates that they could begin again as early as July.
Processing originally paused for "careful, accurate vetting"
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, all expedited processing of H-1B visa requests paused in April 2017 on the orders of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services branch, a month after the decision was announced. At the time, USCIS claimed that the pause might last as long as six months.
All told, it took about three months for USCIS to announce that expedited processing - in which H-1B visa petitions are guaranteed resolution within 15 days or less - would resume in the near future, "as workloads permit." Additionally, the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, a measure that allows foreign national doctors to stay in America on a temporary visa to work in disenfranchised era, went back into effect immediately as of June 26.
James McCament, acting director of the USCIS, said in the announcement, "This program improves health care access for Americans living in underserved areas, and we are pleased to resume premium processing for these [visa] petitions."
Visa processing still slowed for foreign business travelers
Just before the USCIS expressed willingness to immediately resume some expedited H-1B petition processing operations and begin others again soon, the administration of President Donald Trump released an executive order somewhat at odds with the spirit of the USCIS's actions. SHRM noted that the June 21 measure removes allowances for visa applicants not seeking immigration to have their applications processed in 21 days or less. These provisions, originally passed by President Barack Obama (also in an executive order), were intended to ensure at least 80 percent of these visas received expedited attention, in the interest of encouraging business travel and tourism.
According to an official statement from the White House, revocation of the order is meant to avoid "[a] rushed process to accommodate an arbitrary deadline." This could mean that company leaders hoping to attract talent from overseas may not be able to conduct the employee verification requirements as quickly as possible.