USCIS: Extension and Expansion of Premium Processing Suspension for H-1B Petitions to Reduce Delays

by Joseph McKeown

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is extending the previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions and will also expand the temporary suspension to additional H-1B petitions effective September 11, 2018. USCIS says that they expect these suspensions to last until February 19, 2019, and will provide notice before resuming premium processing for these petitions. During this time when H-1B premium processing is suspended, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If petitions are submitted with one combined check for the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B, both forms will be rejected.

Who Is Affected by this Suspension?

The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers (excluding cap-exempt filings noted below). The previously announced suspension of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 was for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including master’s cap exemption cases, and was originally scheduled to last until September 10, 2018. USCIS will continue premium processing Form I-129 H-1B petitions not currently suspended as long as the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before September 11, 2018. USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before September 11, 2018; and
  • USCIS did not take “adjudicative action” on the case within the fifteen-calendar-day processing period.

Premium Processing Remains Available for Certain H-1B Petitions

USCIS notes that the suspension does not apply to:

  1. Cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or
  2. Petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” (Box b. on Part 2, Question 2, Page 2 of the current Form I-129) with a concurrent request to:
  • Notify the office in Part 4 so each beneficiary can obtain a visa or be admitted. (Box on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129); or
  • Extend the stay of each beneficiary because the beneficiary now holds this status. (Box c. on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129).

USCIS notes that the temporary premium processing suspension does not apply to any other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

Expedited Processing

During the premium processing suspension, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. Petitioners must demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and should be prepared to submit documentary evidence to support their request. USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

Why USCIS Is Temporarily Suspending Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

USCIS claims that the temporary suspension will help “reduce overall H-1B processing times” by allowing the agency to process long-pending petitions, be “responsive” to those petitions with time-sensitive start dates, and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases nearing the 240-day mark.

We will update our blog as soon as we receive any updates regarding the premium processing temporary suspension.