USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

pexels-photo-40120-300x200On March 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that it will temporarily suspend its premium processing service for H-1B petitions. The suspension of premium processing takes effect for all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. At the present time, USCIS expects the suspension to last six months.

Premium processing allows for expedited processing of certain USCIS petitions or applications. By paying a processing fee of $1225.00, a petitioner or applicant can assure that USCIS will make a decision on their petition or application within 15 days. (USCIS guarantees that it will either: (1) approve a case; (2) deny a case; or (3) issue a Request for Additional evidence.)

The suspension of premium processing will apply to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. This year, USCIS will not begin processing H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap until April 3, 2017. Therefore, USCIS will not be allowing any premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the 2018 cap. In addition, USCIS will not allow premium processing for any cap exempt H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Examples include: (1) transfer petitions; (2) petitions filed by institutions of higher education or entities affiliated with an institution of higher education; or (3) petitions filed by nonprofit or U.S. governmental research organizations.

USCIS will continue to accept requests for expediting H-1B petitions. In order to have an H-1B petition expedited, an employer will have to provide evidence to USCIS that the case should be expedited because of: (1) severe financial loss; (2) an emergency situation; (3) humanitarian reasons; (4) the request will further the cultural and social interests of the United States; (5) failure to expedite will cause a detriment to the United States Government; (6) USCIS error; or (7) it is in the interest of USCIS. While USCIS will continue to accept request for expediting H-1B petitions, it is important for employers and employees to understand that USCIS rarely grants these types of requests.

With the announcement that USCIS is suspending premium processing for H-1B petitions, all H-1B petitions will be processed using normal processing. Currently USCIS is significantly backlogged in adjudicating H-1B petitions. Currently, it is taking USCIS 8 months on average to adjudicate an H-1B petition filed with the USCIS Vermont Service Center, and five months to adjudicate a H-1B petition filed with the USCIS California Service Center.

Because of the current backlog in H-1B petitions, employers and employees need to take immediate steps. Cap-exempt employers who will need an H-1B employee within the next several months should immediately file their H-1B petition using premium processing before April 3, 2017. In addition, workers who currently have the ability to work with an employer (such as with OPT or a J-1 visa), and who are looking to obtain H-1B status with a cap exempt employer should take steps to renew their current status so that they may continue to work until their H-1B petition is processed.

If you are an employee or employer with questions about the H-1B process, please contact Hartzman Law Firm at dhartzman@hartzmanlawfirm.com, or (412) 495-9849.