US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on August 28, 2018 that it will extend the temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the annual cap, as well as expand the suspension’s coverage to include other H-1B petitions.
About the H-1B
The H-1B program allows foreign workers in highly specialized fields to enter and work in the United States, as provided by section 101(a)(17)(H) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The visa is available to workers who are experts in technology, accounting, academic research, and other fields “requiring specific theoretical and technical expertise.”
Applicants can opt for the expedited service, which can cut down the processing time from 6 months to 15 calendar days in exchange for an additional fee of $1,410.
The suspension of premium processing began in April this year, with the agency claiming that they needed to address the tremendous backlog of ongoing and incoming H-1B applications. The suspension was expected to end on September 10, 2018, but the agency founded that it needed more time to normalize the flow of H-1B processing, hence the decision to extend the suspension to February of next year.
Scope of Suspension to Be Widened
USCIS will also widen the scope of the suspension, effective September 11, 2018, which will affect petitions seeking:
- Change of employer
- Change of status
- Amendments of the terms of employment
Premium processing for H-1B petitions filed at Service Centers in Vermont and California will also be put on hold.
Many immigration attorneys believe that the reason behind this temporary suspension of the option of premium processing for most H-1B petitions can be attributed to an unusually heavy demand and high number of H-1B filings. This is further compounded by increasingly longer processing times, with many petitions taking as long as 10 months to review and process.
While USCIS may continue to process H-1B petitions filed with premium processing before that date, they will be refunding the premium processing fees of petitions that remain stagnant within a 15-calendar-day period. This implies that premium processing may be suspended well before the September date.
USCIS, however, assured everyone that premium processing may still continue for certain H-1B petitions, including cap-exempt petitions filed by cap-exempt institutions and organizations at the California Service Center, as well as petitions for “continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” filed at the Nebraska Service Center.
The agency also pointed out that as long as they meet the criteria, petitioners may continue to apply for expedited processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions. They need only to submit a request along with documentary evidence that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria.
If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or want assistance with 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.