USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

15:56 06 March in News Updates

Effective 4/3/17


Premium processing may be unavailable for up to 6 months


1.To which cases does this apply?

This applies to ALL H-1Bs — cap subject, cap exempt, extensions, etc. filed on or after 4/3/17

2. What if I had a cap exempt H-1B that was filed with premium before 4/3/17?

Then USCIS will honor the premium request.

3. Does this change when we (employer/ employee) will find out if a cap-subject case is selected in the lottery?

Yes. The advantage to adding a premium processing request to a cap-subject case is earlier notification if your case is selected in the lottery, as premium cases were notified first. However, without premium, USCIS will send out notifications (via a receipt notice), as the cases are selected, via regular mail.

Note that premium does NOT increase the chances of a case being selected in the lottery, nor does it advance the start date of 10/1/17 for those cases which are selected.

4. What about other case types – E, L, O, TN?

Not impacted.

5. How long is it taking USCIS to process H-1Bs under the regular process?

USCIS processing times fluctuate without notice. However, currently, and for some time now:

a.  California Service Center: 8 months

b.  Vermont Service Center: 11 to 12 months (yep, that’s a year)

6.  What if the extension isn’t approved before my current H-1B expires?

As long as the extension was timely filed (on or before the date your current H-1B expires), by regulation your work authorization is automatically extended beyond the date of your current H-1B expiration, for up to 240 days, or until the extension is adjudicated, whichever comes first.

7. What about international travel?

If your underlying H-1B expires, you will need the approved extension in order to return to the U.S. after international travel.

8. Why is USCIS temporarily suspending premium processing for all H-1Bs?

Per USCIS: “This temporary suspension will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, we will be able to 1) Process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and 2) Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.”

9. How long will the suspension last?

Per USCIS, it could be up to 6 months. We are hopeful it will not be this long, but are not in a position to estimate further.

Note that per one of President Trump’s executive orders, there is a hiring freeze for federal employees, with the exception of certain positions designated as related to national security. USCIS employees are federal employees. While the President has authorized thousands of additional positions for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection, including Border Patrol), USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is the benefit-granting immigration component of the Department of Homeland Security, is unlikely to receive authorization for additional positions.

A historical consideration: it is not unusual for USCIS to suspend premium processing for a short period when the filing window for cap-subject H-1Bs first opens, because the sheer volume makes it difficult / impossible for USCIS to honor the 15-day adjudication “or your money back” promise. For example, last year premium processing was suspended for cap subject H-1B cases only from 4/1/16 to 5/16/16. And in 2015, USCIS suspended premium processing of H-1B extensions from 5/26/15 to 7/13/15, so they could address the additional workload resulting from the new H-4 EAD filings.

10. For employers: What if we already paid or authorized premium processing for a petition which cannot be filed before 4/3/17?

Filing fees are held in Trust until they are needed for filing of a petition. If you have already provided premium processing filing fees, LAC will hold the funds in your Client Trust Account until premium processing is reinstated and we can add the premium request to the pending filing. However, if you prefer to have the premium processing filing fee refunded instead, please just let us know and we will do so within a week of the request.

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