On March 3rd, 2017, USCIS announced that beginning April 3rd, 2017 they will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions.
Premium processing services is normally requested by filing form I-907 and paying a $1,225 filing fee. It guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing of certain employment-based petitions.
The suspension is expected to last up to 6 months. Affected petitions will be those filed on or after April 3rd, 2017. During the suspension, petitioners will not be able to file a Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. I-907 forms filed before April 3rd, 2017 for H-1B petitions will continue to be processed.
While USCIS has suspended premium processing in the past in order to clear backlogs in petitions, the current suspension is much broader than in the 16 year history of the premium processing program, as all H-1B visa petition types are affected.
USCIS claims that temporarily suspending premium processing this time around will allow them to reduce overall H-1B processing times. They state that delaying the processing of incoming petitions requiring premium processing will allow them to process “long-pending petitions”.
In addition, USCIS says eliminating premium processing will allow them to, “prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.” Some impacts of the changes to H-1B processing include the following:
- Employers will not be able to learn about their visa petitions early in order to facilitate business planning.
- Many beneficiaries will not be able to start work on October 1st as requested unless there is a decrease in regular USCIS processing times.
- The new changes will affect H-1B portability. Petitions filed to move from one H-1B employer to another cannot be premium processed. In addition, those changing from another non-immigrant status to an H-1B may not begin working for their new employer until their H-1B is approved.
- Lack of premium processing will affect H-1B workers filing an extension as that their 240 day extension may run out before their application is processed.
- Persons waiting for the H-1B visa to be approved will not be able to travel outside the US. Reentering the US will require an H-1B approval after the initial visa has expired.
- Some states will not issue a driver’s license for a non-immigrant unless an extension or change of status petition has been approved.
Although premium processing is not available, petitioners can request their petition be expedited on a case-by-case basis. Examples of qualifying criteria for an expedited petition include:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation;
- Humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in continuance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- Department of Defense or national interest situation (Requests must come from a U.S. Government entity.)
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
The temporary suspension does not apply to other non-immigrant visas such as the TN or the L-1, and any pending H-1B application can be upgraded to premium processing once the suspension is lifted.