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H-1B premium processing has few takers among Indian IT

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Earlier, companies such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL Tech and Tech Mahindra used the premium processing window to put employees onsite faster.
BENGALURU: Indian IT services companies are not too keen to use a premium processing option for H-1B visas due to a changing business model and higher rejection rates, two people aware of the developments at industry lobby group Nasscom said.

These companies, long dependent on H-1B visas to deploy software engineers close to their clients in the United States, got a significant chunk of the visas under the 85,000 annual H-1B limit, which includes a cap of 20,000 master’s degree holders.

Over the past three years, most of these firms have started hiring locally, primarily from universities as they have come under increased scrutiny and have faced more rejections, said one of the people.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which processes the visa applications, opened a two phase premium processing window for H-1B applications this year for applications filed for fiscal year 2020 that begins October 1, after suspending the option for a couple of years citing higher demand.

The second phase began on June 10 and the fee was set at $1,410. Premium processing ensures adjudication of the petition — whether it is approved or returned seeking more evidence — within 15 days.

“Based on feedback from the public, we are using this phased approach to benefit petitioners and ensure efficient premium processing. The first phase, which started on May 20, included FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status, and the second phase includes all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions,” USCIS said in a statement in June first week.

Indian IT firms may push for some urgent applications, but may not use the premium processing window aggressively, said one of the two Nasscom sources.

Earlier, companies such as Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL Tech and Tech Mahindra used the premium processing window to put employees onsite faster. “Indian IT services companies receive less than 12% of the H-1B visas and this number has been consistently declining as firms have expanded global hiring, driven by the need for digital disruption. The premium processing (window) opening, while a useful tool, has not received much feedback from our members as their business models have shifted,” said Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president, Nasscom.
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