US suspends expedited processing of H-1B visas

By Faith Karimi CNN

(CNN) -- The US is temporarily suspending expedited processing of H-1B visas, eliminating the option of shorter wait times for the program that helps highly skilled foreigners work at US companies.

Under the current system, companies submitting applications for H-1B visas for potential employers can pay extra for expedited processing, which is referred to as premium processing.

Premium processing costs an additional $1,225 and ensures a response from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services in 15 days or the fee is refunded. Standard H-1B applications -- those that are not premium -- take between three to six months.

The suspension is effective April 3, and could last up to six months, according to USCIS.

The H-1B visa program is the main pathway for highly skilled foreigners to work at US companies. Various professions, including the tech industry, engineering, journalists, doctors and professors, vie for one of the program's 85,000 visas each year.

The visas are doled out by a lottery, and the number of applicants continues to swell each year. Last year, the demand was three times more than the quota.

While the visas are used to fill the US skills gap, the Trump administration has spoken out about abuse of the program.

Outsourcing firms flood the system with applicants, obtaining visas for foreign workers and then farming them out to tech companies. They take a sizable cut of the salary.

CNN's Sara Ashley O'Brien contributed to this report

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