Premium Processing Suspended For All H-1B Petitions Starting April 3rd
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend Premium Processing for all H-1B petitions for a period of up to six months starting on April 3rd, 2017. The USCIS’s goal is to reduce overall H-1B processing times and prioritize adjudication of long-pending petitions.
Background on Premium Processing:
H-1B petitions filed under the regular processing method have been increasingly subject to lengthy adjudication times from six to eight months or longer.
Premium Processing is an expedited method of adjudication available for certain non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions, including H-1B petitions. Premium Processing is requested by filing Form I-907 and including an additional government filing fee of $1,225.00. It guarantees a response by USCIS (either an adjudication or Request for Further Evidence) within fifteen (15) calendar days of a petition being submitted.
Impact on Non-Cap Subject H-1B Petitions:
- All H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3rd will be subject to significantly lengthier processing times than may otherwise be secured through the Premium Processing method.
- Eligible employees who have maintained H-1B status, and who are filing a timely extension or amendment of status with the same employer, may continue to work while the extension is pending, up to 240 days.
- Eligible H-1B beneficiaries of a change of employer petition filed on or after April 3rd may have to wait 2-3 weeks or more to obtain a receipt notice from the government to allow them to begin work for the new employer, whereas Premium Processing cases typically received email receipts within a few days.
- Some employees may have travel restrictions or increased risks, depending on the expiration of the I-797 approval and visa stamp in the passport.
Employers are encouraged to work with employees and counsel to file cases six months in advance when possible, and to work with employees to plan ahead for international travel. USCIS may re-instate Premium Processing at or before six months. If cases filed during the suspension period are not adjudicated by October or employment authorization is at risk, employers may need to evaluate options for expediting cases or ‘upgrading’ to Premium Processing once available.
Impact on Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions:
The start of the H-1B cap submission period for FY2018 begins on April 3rd. No FY2018 cap-subject petitions will be eligible for the expedited Premium Processing request, and all will be processed through the regular processing method. If cases selected in the lottery are not adjudicated by October 1, there may be an impact on certain F-1 students and some companies may want to consider “upgrading” to Premium Processing once it becomes available again.
It is unclear whether the USCIS will continue to honor expedited processing for H-1B petitions submitted with Premium Processing that have not been adjudicated prior to April 3rd. USCIS has stated it may choose to adjudicate these petitions under regular processing, or reject any petitions submitted with joint government filing fee checks that did not separate out the filing fee for the Form I-907 requesting Premium Processing.
This suspension may further impact H-1B employees whose state driver’s licenses are expiring and must be renewed, if evidence of non-immigrant status is required for such renewal. H-1B employees may not be able to renew driver’s licenses, or renewals may only be for a temporary duration. Impacted individuals are encouraged to contact their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to inquire regarding renewal requirements.
The USCIS has noted that discretionary expedite requests for processing remain available for certain petitions. However, these requests are only accepted in very limited situations, including a showing of severe financial loss to a company or person, emergency situations, or humanitarian reasons, among others. All expedite requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis and granted at the sole discretion of the USCIS’s office leadership.
If you have any questions about this alert, please contact your Gibney representative or email firstname.lastname@example.org.