On August 28, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will extend its current suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B cap subject petitions (new cases subject to the annual quota for a potential October 1, 2018 start date). Effective September 11, 2018, USCIS is also expanding the Premium Processing suspension to additional H-1B case types. The suspension is estimated to last until February 19, 2019. With Premium Processing, an additional fee of $1,225 is paid to USCIS to issue either a decision or request for evidence within 15 calendar days of filing. Employers rely heavily on USCIS' Premium Processing program for efficient resolution of cases impacting their prospective and existing employees.
USCIS Extends Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Cap Cases.
Earlier this year, USCIS suspended Premium Processing for H-1B cap subject petitions. At the time, USCIS estimated it would reinstate Premium Processing for H-1B cap cases in September 2018. USCIS now estimates the suspension will continue to February 19, 2019. Many cases will likely now remain pending with USCIS beyond the anticipated October 1, 2018 start date for new H-1B petitions, significantly impacting employers and foreign nationals.
USCIS Expands Suspension of Premium Processing to Additional H-1B Case Types.
USCIS is also expanding its suspension of Premium Processing beginning September 11, 2018, to the following additional H-1B case types (also through an estimated date of February 19, 2019):
H-1B extensions with change in previously approved employment
H-1B amendments (with or without extension)
H-1B changes of employer
The following H-1B case types remain eligible for Premium Processing at this time:
H-1B petitions for employment with or at cap-exempt employers
H-1B extensions of previously approved employment without change for the same employer (petition extensions, either with or without a request for extension of stay)
Employers should immediately consider whether any upcoming extensions can be prepared for filing prior to September 11, 2018, for any case types that will be subject to the Premium Processing suspension as of that date. Again, this includes H-1B changes of employer and most H-1B extensions that include a change or amendment to previously approved employment with the same employer.
For H-1B cap subject cases, employers and foreign nationals should be aware that cases may remain pending with USCIS beyond October 1, 2018. The continued suspension will particularly impact certain recent graduates of U.S. universities whose employment authorization expires October 1. It may also impact foreign nationals who planned to start a new position in the United States by October 1.
USCIS reminds employers that it is still possible to request Expedited Processing of an H-1B petition outside of the Premium Processing program. USCIS' requirements for Expedited Processing present a relatively high bar for employers: typically, extreme financial loss to the petitioning employer must be demonstrated.
This client alert is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding this update, or for more information about this topic, please contact any of the attorneys in our Business Immigration Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.