The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said on Friday it will suspend premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions from April 3 and it may last up to six months.
The department wants to "reduce overall H-1B processing times" by halting premium processing, according to a press release on its website.
The H-1B is a non-immigrant visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act. It allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.
Under the current system, a company which is sponsoring a potential employee or current employee's H-1B petition may fill out a form to expedite the processing of that petition. After paying an additional 1,225-dollar fee for this service, USCIS responds typically in 15 calendar days, whereas standard H-1B petitions may take anywhere between three to six months to receive a judgement.
For Silicon Valley companies, many of which employ large numbers of H-1B holders, this move could signal that waiting times for approval may get much longer, said a report from the Verge multimedia website.
Up to 85,000 H-1B visas are issued annually, but demand has far outstripped supply in recent years, according to the report.