The US government said on Monday it would resume fast processing of H-1B visas requested by institutions of higher education and nonprofit and governmental research organisations, while leaving in place a longer approval time for companies that use the visas.
US President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to crack down on immigrants, whom he said were taking jobs from US citizens, and signed an executive order in April calling for a review of the H-1B program. The visa allows foreigners with certain skills to work temporarily in the United States.
US companies often use the visas to hire graduate-level workers in several specialised fields, including information technology, medicine, engineering and mathematics. The visas are heavily used in the tech sector.
On April 3, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suspended "premium processing" of the visas for up to six months. Under the expedited procedure, applicants can be eligible for visa approvals within 15 days, instead of a regular review period that can last several months.
The United States currently caps H-1B visas at 65,000 a year, with an additional 20,000 allowed for those who have earned advanced college degrees in the United States.
The overall suspension remains in place but USCIS said on Monday in a statement that premium processing would resume for some applications from educational and research-oriented organisations exempt from the cap.
The agency resumed premium processing for physicians working under a specific waiver program on June 26.
The USCIS has said that suspending premium processing was necessary to reduce a backlog of long-pending visa petitions and thus reduce overall H-1B processing times.