Effective July 1, 2016, the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) is accepting certain H-1B and H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore Free Trade) petitions which were previously required to be filed at other service centers. The NSC is now accepting H-1B and H-1B1 I-129 petitions if the petitioner requests a “continuation of previously approved employment without change from the same employer” in response to Question 2 and also requests that US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) “notify the office in Part 4,” “extend the stay of the beneficiary,” or “extend the status…based on a free trade agreement” in response to Question 4.
Note, however, that extension petitions with the same employer without change for cap-exempt petitioners or on behalf of beneficiaries who were previously employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization should still be filed at the California Service Center. USCIS has updated its “Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker” page to reflect the new filing location. This page has extensive and detailed instructions on where cases should be filed and should be carefully consulted. The California Service Center and the Vermont Service Center may continue to accept these H-1B and H-1B1 petitions (that are supposed to now to be filed with the NSC) only during the transition period ending August 31, 2016. After this date, incorrectly filed H-1B and H-1B1 petitions will be rejected and returned to the attorney of record or petitioner, so it is recommended to double-check the filing location carefully.
The “Direct Filling Address” page indicates that the NSC will accept appropriately filed petitions via premium processing. The NSC will also accept:
- Concurrently filed H-4 Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; and
- Concurrently filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for certain H-4 nonimmigrants.
Those filing a standalone Form I-539 and/or Form I-765 for H-4 nonimmigrants, should refer to the “Filing Addresses for Form I-539” or the “Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-765” for proper filing addresses.
Historically, USCIS has often made “workload” transfers between service centers in order, they say, “to balance our workload and ensure timely processing.” Typically when cases are transferred between centers, USCIS will send a transfer notice with the same receipt number as was originally issued, and USCIS claims the transfer will not delay processing of the case. Generally when USCIS makes a permanent change in filing address, the goal is the same: distribute workload more effectively and ease the number of cases at overworked service centers in order to expedite the case and decrease the often lengthy processing times. Only this week the Vermont Service Center processing date for H-1B extensions with the same employer was September 28, 2015, which translates to approximately an eight-month wait time. The date has jumped dramatically to January 11, 2016, but it remains to be seen whether this re-routing of certain H-1B and H-1B1 cases to the NSC has had an affect and will over the long term decrease long processing times. We, like many immigration practitioners and applicants, are hopeful it will.