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H-1B Visa Premium Processing Resumes, Albeit with Conditions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it has resumed premium processing of all H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2019 cap, H-1B extensions for those only continuing in already-approved employment, and petitions filed by universities and nonprofit or government research organizations exempt from the cap.

Premium processing for most other types of H-1B petitions, however, currently remains unavailable.

Fortunately, processing of USCIS petitions were not paused during the government shutdown. The agency, however, said they are experiencing a significant slowdown in processing times.

USCIS reported that they had received around 190,000 petitions during the first week alone of processing for the Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B cap. They later proceeded with the routine random lottery to select the 85,000 petitions, broken down as 65,000 petitions under the general category and the remaining 20,000 under the U.S. advanced degree category.

Exempt from this limitation are status extensions, H-1B statuses obtained in order to teach at universities, nonprofit or government research organizations, and J waiver physicians.

Employers may now also continue using E-Verify, an online Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS tool used to test if employees are eligible to work in the U.S. as the agencies confirmed that it will resume operations. Employers who hired foreign employees while E-Verify was down are mandated to create an E-Verify case by February 11, 2019 using the date of hire stated in the employee’s Form I-9.

On the other hand, employers looking to apply for H-1B visas subject to the Fiscal Year 2020 cap for foreign nationals not currently in H-1B status—that is, excluding all manner of status extensions—may do so as soon as April 1, 2019 for a start date of October 1, 2019.

USCIS has introduced a new system to H-1B selection that will take effect come the Fiscal Year 2020 filing season and all other future cap H-1B seasons. The order will be reversed, with the agency first selecting petitions that were submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, after which they will then select from the remaining eligible petitions. This has the intended effect of increasing the number of H-1B beneficiaries bearing advanced U.S. degrees.

In addition, USCIS has provided a 14-day window in late March during which time employers are required to electronically register H-1B petitions subject to their respective cap. These petitions should include the employer’s name, address, and EIN, along with the beneficiary’s name, date of birth, country of birth, citizenship, passport number, education, and attorney information.

If you wish to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or need assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials

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