USCIS Announces Changes to Premium Processing for FY2020 Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing on Tuesday, March 12 for all H-1B petitions. Today USCIS announced exceptions for FY2020 Cap-Subject H-1B petitions (petitions which will be filed beginning April 1, 2019).
Per USCIS, premium processing will be offered in two phases during the FY 2020 cap season so USCIS can manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as they did in previous years. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status; the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.
- Cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status may request premium processing if the request is filed concurrently with the H-1B petition. However, USCIS will not begin the 15-day premium processing clock for these petitions immediately. Rather, it will begin no later than May 20, 2019. USCIS will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions.
- Premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not be permitted on April 1. USCIS will notify the public when it is permissible to file premium processing requests for these petitions. USCIS anticipates premium will not be available for these cases until at least June 2019.
At this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.
How do I know if a cap-subject H-1B petition may be filed as a change of status?
In order to file a petition requesting a change of status, at the time the H-1B is filed (the first week of April) the beneficiary (employee) must be able to document they will be in the U.S. in a valid nonimmigrant status on September 30, 2019. If the H-1B petition is selected and approved, the H-1B can then take effect immediately on October 1, 2019.
Are there any exceptions to the above?
Yes. An exception applies to F-1 students who qualify for “cap-gap” work authorization. If a student’s F-1 status or OPT will expire before 9/30/19 they may still file an H-1B as a change of status. In fact, H-1B petitions for these students must be filed requesting a change of status if they want cap-gap protection.
Does international travel impact a change of status filing?
Yes. International travel after the H-1B petition is filed will terminate the change of status request.
How does premium processing work?
If an employer submits a premium processing request, together with the requisite $1410 filing fee, USCIS will guarantee a response within 15 calendar days of receipt of the request (or alternate date as noted above) “or your money back.” The response may be an approval, denial, or request for additional evidence. If USCIS issues a request for additional evidence, the premium processing clock stops, and will re-start at Day 1 when the response to the request is received at the agency.
What is the benefit of premium processing?
For FY2020 H-1B cap-subject cases:
- Premium cases are generally notified of selection in the lottery sooner than those filed regular processing, although premium does not increase chances of selection in any way.
- Premium would also expedite final adjudication. Therefore, if the petition is selected in the lottery the employer and employee would learn if the case is approved 6+ months sooner than under regular processing.
For non-cap H-1Bs (extensions, amendments, change of employer):
- Expediting adjudication is especially beneficial if an approval is required to onboard an employee, or if the employee needs the approval in order to return from international travel
What is the regular USCIS adjudication time, without premium processing?
USCIS processing times fluctuate, but the current regular (non-premium) processing times are as follows:
California Service Center 9.5 to 12.5 months
Vermont Service Center 7 to 9 months for consular notification and change of employers
2.5 to 4.5 months for extensions
Nebraska Service Center 3.5 to 5.5 months
Summary of H-1B premium processing suspensions/ reinstatements
- USCIS announced the suspension of premium processing for FY2019 H-1B cap-subject petitions in March 2019
- USCIS expanded the suspension to most other types of H-1B petitions, effective September 11, 2018. Premium processing remained available for H-1Bs filed by cap exempt institutions and certain extensions.
- On January 28, 2019 USCIS resumed premium processing of FY2019 cap-subject petitions (those filed in April 2018)
- On February 19, 2019 USCIS reinstated premium processing for cases filed on or before December 21, 2018
- On March 12, 2019 USCIS reinstated premium processing for all H-1B petitions