Even as the cap for this year’s quota of 65,000 H1B visas was reached in a matter of four days starting April 3, a printing error on visas issued or renewed this year is causing anxiousness in the Indian tech industry workers.
A US printing press under the visa processing centres is mistakenly printing ‘1B1’ instead of H1B on approved petitions of many visa holders, which is making their travel plans go awry.
The error is making difficult emergency travel out of the US for many H1B holders bound for their home country as they fear a problem in returning to the US after leaving its shores.
The error has been especially noticed by foreign passport holders who recently applied for the now suspended premium processing programme for for renewals or restamping. Candidates are also finding it difficult as the USCIS by law does not entertain their enquiries.
“I tried calling the USCIS but they declined my enquiry as am neither petitioner or a lawyer,” an H1B holder posted an anxious query on social media forums.
A printing error may not be condoned by a visa officer when a candidate goes for fresh stamping outside the US.
“Nothing happens automatically and a petitioner (employer) or lawyer will have to call or email them. It is very risky to travel outside of US in case you are trying to visit the home country for visa stamping using an erroneous petition,” another anxious visa holder posted.
Suspension of premium processing
The US used to charge USD 1,225 as premium processing fee for those H1B petitions which got randomly selected in the 65,000 lottery. The premium processing used to guarantee a 15-day review of the visa application.
The Trump administration suspended for six months the premium processing programme starting April 3, this year. About 60 percent of the employers used to apply for H1B visas under this category, as it could give them a definitive result on their hiring plans for IT projects.
The suspension also means that fate of H1B holders and their families is likely to hang in balance for up to 6-8 months, when a normal petition is likely to get approved due to a huge backlog.
With a sudden suspension of the premium processing, US visa processing centres are also in a quandary and not issuing receipt numbers for those petitions which were received under this category.
Even cheques issued under premium processing by H1B petitioners in favour of the visa processing centres are not being encashed, leading to anxiousness amongst the visa holders.
There are an estimated 120,000 H1B holders present in the US currently and a majority of them are employed by the IT industry.