March 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it will suspend its premium processing for H-1B visa petitions next month, possibly making deep cuts in the number of highly skilled workers entering the country.
Immigration services said the temporary suspension of premium processing for visas will begin April 3 and may last up to six months. U.S. companies often use the visas to bring lower-cost skilled workers to the United States.
"We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions," Immigration services said.
The expedited premium processing for the visas costs $1,225 and ensures a response from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 15 days or the fee will be refunded. Companies from fields including tech, engineering, journalism, medicine and academia regularly apply to acquire some of the program's 85,000 visas, which are distributed via lottery.
According to immigration services, the suspension was implemented to reduce overall H-1B processing times by allowing the department to use the six-month period to review and process long-pending petitions.
Petitioners will still have the opportunity to expedite their H-1B petition during the suspension if they meet the qualifications that include humanitarian crises or emergency situations.