USCIS to Suspend Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Starting 4/3/2017
March 6, 2017
On March 3, the USCIS announced it would temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3, 2017. The suspension is expected to last up to 6 months. In its announcement, the USCIS stated the reason for the suspension is to allow the agency to process its backlog of long-term pending H-1B cases and give priority to H-1B extensions which have been pending close to 240 days.
The temporary suspension will apply to all H-1B petitions: fiscal year cap cases; change of employer requests; extensions of stay; and amendments.
The USCIS announcement did not address whether other types of petitions where premium processing is also currently permitted would be affected. Presumably, this means that premium processing will still be available for L-1 petitions, O-1 petitions and certain I-140 petitions.
Employers are encouraged to identify non-cap cases where premium processing is warranted and file those cases with the USCIS before April 3.
For FY18 cap cases, the announcement does not affect eligibility for selection in the lottery. The announcement means that employers will not receive a response within 15 days from selection, which may impact ability to travel while the H-1B request is pending. The premium processing option also provides some certainty for individuals seeking to change status (for example, F-1 OPT candidates whose EAD cards expire before October 1, 2017). The USCIS announcement did not address cap gap coverage.
In very limited circumstances, the USCIS may grant discretionary expedited processing. Criteria include: severe financial loss; a national interest request, and humanitarian reasons. All requests for expedited processing must be accompanied with evidence to support the request.
Weaver Schlenger LLP is working with our clients to identify non-cap H-1B cases which would benefit from premium processing before the suspension begins, and to strategize next actions on cap cases affected by the premium processing suspension.
As we receive updates and clarification from the USCIS, we will share them here.