USCIS announced last week that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B visas as a result of a longstanding buildup of petitions submitted for H-1B status.
“Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.”
The temporary suspension applies to H-1B petitions filed on or after the April 3rd date, and is expected to last for up to six months.
In specific, urgent cases, employers will be able to request a faster processing speed for submitted petitions, but only if the case meets USCIS’ restrictive expedite standards. These exceptions are only granted in very rare occasions, including emergencies ranging from humanitarian crises, situations involving significant economic loss to the employer or foreign individual, and a handful of other challenging contexts.
While premium processing will be temporarily suspended for H-1B petitions, it is expected to remain available for other nonimmigrant petitions filed through Form I-129 (including L-1 and O-1 petitions), and for qualifying I-140 petitions.
Employers should communicate with D’Alessio Law Group professionals to identify crucial non-cap H-1B filing needs so that petitions can be submitted via premium processing as soon as possible, and prior to the April 3rd cutoff. Non-cap employers exempt to the cap include institutions of higher education (or related non-profit entities), non-profit research organizations, and government research organizations. Even though USCIS has stated that it will recognize premium-processing requests for non-cap petitions that await review on April 3rd, there is room for doubt, and the possibility that this could change in the near future remains.
H-1B extensions can only be filed within the six months before the end of the beneficiary’s original period of stay. However, H-1B holders who file their extension within this period are able to benefit from up to 240 days of additional work authorization past their end date while their case remains pending.
Effect on the FY 2018 Filing Season
The announcement and suspension determines that FY 2018 H-1B cap petitions will not qualify for 15-day expedited processing until the suspension is removed. Though premium processing does not impact the likelihood that an H-1B petition will be selected within the cap lottery, it does give greater certainty to beneficiaries – specifically F-1 student visa holders who are changing status to H-1B, and to those whose optional practical training (OPT) or course of study will end between April 3 and October 1.
Effect on Travel
The suspension could also inhibit a foreign-born individual’s capability to travel outside of the country between April 3rd and the H-1B cap petition date of approval. Traveling with a pending change of status before approval will cause it to be deemed abandoned (though the original H-1B petition remains approvable). An individual who travels internationally before the change of status is approved would need to take additional actions to earn H-1B status on October 1.
D’Alessio Law Group closely tracks USCIS’ processing of H-1B petitions, and will deliver updates as new developments follow. If you have any questions about USCIS’s announcement, suspension, or details surrounding H-1B premium processing, please contact your D’Alessio Law Group professional and call us at (310) 909-3934.