Halt On Fast-Track Option For H-1B Visas Could Slow College Hires

Mar 7, 2017

President Donald Trump’s new executive order on immigration does not apply to people on visas – but there’s another change to the visa program for skilled immigrant workers that could put a strain on foreign hires at Indiana universities.

The temporary change to the H-1B visa program would halt what’s called “premium processing,” which speeds up visa applications for foreign, highly skilled workers.

Everyone can use this option, but most H-1B visas still have to go through selection by lottery after that. There’s a limit to how many are issued.

But there’s no limit on H-1Bs for nonprofit organizations and corporations, including public and private colleges and universities.

Indianapolis-based immigration attorney Ryan Marques, who represents some Hoosier schools, says premium processing is vital for his clients to complete foreign hires quickly.

“Without it, the university would not be able to put that particular faculty member in the classroom, and students wouldn’t have the professor or a class to attend,” Marques says.

Federal officials say the six-month halt on premium processing, starting in April, will help them deal with a backlog of other petitions. But Marques says he’s skeptical that the move will do anything but result in fewer H-1Bs being issued.

The Trump administration has been critical of the entire H-1B program, saying it fills jobs Americans could take – especially in the tech and industrial sector. Meanwhile, some businesses say they can’t find enough Americans to hire.