USCIS will begin premium processing of H-1B visa applications May 12; a senator has introduced a bill to address the gap between temporary seasonal workers and highly skilled H-1B workers.

H-1B. US Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin premium processing on May 12 for cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting premium processing, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a US master’s degree or higher.

The number of petitions for H-1B visas edged up 1.3% this year to 236,000, again exceeding the annual cap on available visas within the first week petitions were accepted

USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.

For H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap and for any other visa classification, the 15-day processing period for premium processing service begins on the date that USCIS receives the request.

Proposed legislation. US Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) last week introduced the Willing Workers and Willing Employers Act, a pilot guest worker program designed to address the gap that currently exists between temporary visa programs for seasonal workers and the H-1B visa program for highly-skilled immigrants.

The bill amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for an H–2C nonimmigrant classification. The 10-year-long pilot program established by the bill would:

  • Admit workers who have less than a bachelor’s degree to do year-round, non-farm work
  • Create a flexible cap for registered positions ranging from 65,000 to 85,000 a year to match economic demand
  • Provide strict requirements that employers must seek an available US worker before utilizing a guest worker under this program
  • Allow employers and employees greater portability by enabling workers to change jobs and work for any employer who has tested the labor market and proved that they are unable to hire an American worker for the position

During the pilot program, the bill would require a study to determine the effects of the program on wages, employment, economic growth, welfare use, and government services to determine if the program should be continued.

“This kind of flexible, market-based visa program designed to better meet economic demand is exactly the approach we need to bring US-immigration policy into the 21st century,” Flake said.