On March 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a statement that it will temporarily suspend premium processing of all H-1B petitions filed on and after April 3, 2017 – the first day of the H-1B CAP filing season. This suspension will include all H-1B petitions, including CAP petitions subject to the undergraduate and Master’s degree quotas, as well as CAP- exempt petitions, extensions and change of status requests. USCIS advised that this suspension may continue for as long as six months. As a result of this suspension, please be aware of the following:
- All H-1B CAP petitions filed this year will be ineligible for premium processing at the time of filing.
- Employers and individuals should anticipate delays in receiving H-1B CAP decisions.
- Employers should also expect delays in USCIS issuance of all H-1B receipt notices.
- Employers planning to file premium processing requests for H-1B extensions of stay, change of employer or change of status may file these requests no later than March 30, 2017 for receipt March 31, 2017.
- USCIS may return premium processing fees filed before April 3, 2017, where USCIS does not take action on the case within 15 days. Therefore, premium processing requests filed on or before March 30, 2017, may not be granted.
- Newly hired H-1B ‘transfers’ must rely on the USCIS filing receipt for the new H-1B Employer to begin this H-1B employment.
While USCIS has previously suspended premium processing during the busy H-1B CAP season, this year’s premium processing suspension includes all H-1B petitions. USCIS offered that the suspension of premium processing will allow them to focus on currently backlogged petitions as well as prioritize H-1B extensions that are nearing the 240-day mark. Please note that for a timely filed H-1B extension, the H-1B Employee’s employment authorization is automatically extended for up to 240 days beyond their H-1B expiration date.
In rare cases, Employers filing H-1B petitions may be eligible for expedited processing, but they must meet one of the criteria, such as: severe financial loss to the company or individual, emergency situations, a compelling interest to USCIS, national interest, humanitarian reasons, or USCIS error. Expedited requests are decided on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of USCIS.