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U.S. H-1B Visa Premium Processing Suspension Extended

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For those hoping to quickly secure themselves an H-1B visa, the wait just got a bit longer.

Last March, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing for H-1B visa applications would be suspended until September 10, 2018. That suspension, however, was extended until February 19, 2019, according to Bloomberg.

The framework of the policy adjustment, originally, was centered around the excess of priority H-1B premium applications. Premium processing allowed applicants to obtain an H-1B work visa within 15 days, rather than the standard six-month waiting period, for a fee of $1,225 USD. Some companies took full advantage of this policy, which created a backlog of applications.

How Does The H-1B Premium Processing Suspension Affect Schools and Students?

The suspension of premium processing for H-1B applicants does not fully shut the door on international labor in the U.S. However, it could continue to dampen the MBA application pool, which has seen a slow decline in recent years, especially among international applicants.

As Clear Admit covered, the interest among international applicants hit a wall around the beginning of 2017, coinciding with the first month of the Donald Trump presidency:

“Just before Donald Trump’s election victory, approximately 46 percent of international MBA applicants surveyed by GMAC responded that they would prefer to study in the United States—above the 45-percent, five-year, pre-election average. But not once since November 2016 has that been the case. The percentage of international applicants indicating a preference for U.S. business schools plunged at the beginning of 2017, to below 40 percent in January and just over 30 percent in February. Summer 2017 saw a bit of a rebound—though never reaching 45 percent—but international interest has again declined this fall.”

Last May, Financial Times writer Jonathan Moules found that limiting the number of H-1B work visas could directly correlate with the dwindling interest in an MBA in the United States.  Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business dean Bob Dammon told Moules, “The job options for international students in the U.S. [are] declining. However, these are exactly the people who we want to keep in the U.S. as part of our workforce.”

With rigid visa policies, the rising cost of graduate school degrees, and broadening one-year MBA options outside of the U.S., it is easy to see why international attraction to the American MBA has been shrinking.

Will the Suspension Affect Employers?

Several of the largest MBA employers in the world, such as Deloitte, Amazon, Google, and Apple, are among the most prolific employers of H-1B holders, according to My Visa Jobs. A declining pool of employees and potential MBAs could drastically shift the employment demographics of those companies.

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Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte & Touche are both among the top 25 employers of H-1B visa holders.

However, while the highest portion of H-1B holders in the United States actually reside in Texas, the heart of the H-1B debate still rests in Silicon Valley.

In contrast to the 45 percent of Americans that feel H-1B holders are “eating into jobs meant for local workers,” the non-profit advocacy group, Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG), and the Mercury News had a rosier opinion of H-1B holders:

“Nearly 80 percent of Bay Area voters surveyed said that highly-skilled immigrants, like H-1B workers, have a positive impact on the region’s economy and its quality of life. Just 4 percent felt otherwise.”

The attitude is both reflective of the positive economic footprint H-1B holders have brought to the area, and the financial benefit of the Silicon Valley companies that hire them. In the Huffington Post, Norm Matloff, a computer sciences professor at UC Davis, argued that the talent shortage many Silicon Valley companies complain about among U.S. workers is either overblown, or a cover for the fact that these companies routinely underpay H-1B holders. A Congressional report reflected those low-pay claims, stating, that H-1B holders “received lower wages, less senior job titles, smaller signing bonuses, and smaller pay and compensation increases than would be typical for the work they actually did.”

A smaller pool of H-1B talent could, in theory, help improve the employment figures of U.S. citizens in the ultra-competitive tech business scene, as well as boost the salary potential of H-1B holders. However, increasingly high cost of living in areas like San Jose and San Francisco, coupled with a smaller amount of job openings and low rates of unionization, may make that possibility far less likely than Matloff may hope.

In addition, a potential crackdown on H-4 visa holders can make the H-1B climate in the U.S. more tumultuous than ever, forcing more working immigrants to leave their careers behind.

Matthew Korman
Matthew Korman is a contributing author and editor for Clear Admit. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked with numerous academic institutions, in addition to roles as a music industry writer, promoter, and data analyst. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.