USCIS To Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for FY2019 H-1B Cap Petitions

22:57 21 March in News Updates

USCIS has announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all FY2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions.  The suspension will take effect when the filing window opens on April 2, 2018.  The suspension is expected to last until September 10, 2018.

H-1B cap cases already initiated with a premium processing request

LAC will retain premium processing fees in trust for employers who have initiated H-1B cap cases with a request for premium processing.   If the petition is still pending adjudication when USCIS resumes premium processing, LAC will submit the premium processing request at that time.  Alternatively, for any employer who wishes to have the premium processing request cancelled at this time, please notify your LAC attorney and we will cancel the matter and promptly refund related fees.

Effect of suspension of premium processing for cap subject cases

Premium processing only advances the time frame for notice and adjudication of the petition.  It would not increase the chances of selection in the lottery, nor would it advance the start date of employment for a cap-subject petition, which remains October 1, 2018.

The main effect of the suspension is that employers and employees will likely need to wait longer to be notified whether a petition was selected in the lottery, and if selected, wait longer for final adjudication.

In FY2018, USCIS completed data entry for all cap-subject cases on May 3, 2017; notifications of acceptance in/ rejections for the lottery were not complete until July 19, 2017.   Adjudication of some petitions were not completed until September 2017.

Does the suspension apply to other petitions which are not subject to the cap?

At this time, premium processing remains available for H-1B petitions which are not subject to the cap.  These include:

  • H-1B amendments (filing to change a term or condition of employment for an employee who already holds H-1B status)
  • H-1B extensions (filing to extend the stay of an employee who already holds H-1B status)
  • H-1B transfers (filing to transfer an H-1B from Employer A to Employer B)
  • H-1B petitions for someone who has held an H-1B in the past and has not exhausted the full six years of H-1B time
  • H-1B petitions filed by cap-exempt employers, such as universities or non-profit research institutions

Premium processing also remains available in other designated nonimmigrant and immigrant visa categories.  At this time, only H-1B cap-subject petitions are impacted by the suspension.

Reminder to initiate any cap-subject petitions immediately

The filing window for H-1B petitions seeking a FY2019 (10/1/18 to 9/30/19) cap or quota number will open on Monday, April 2, 2018.    As with prior years, we anticipate demand will exceed supply within the first week, which will mandate a lottery to determine which petitions will be selected to proceed to adjudication.   All petitions received at USCIS from Monday, April 2 through Friday, April 6 will be included in the lottery.    Last year 196,000 petitions were filed for the 85,000 visas available.  We anticipate similar volume this year.

Obtaining a certified Labor Condition Application from the DOL can take 7 to 10+ days at this time of year.  It is therefore imperative to initiate any cap-subject cases immediately to ensure consideration in the lottery.

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