USCIS appears to be in the process of reinstating premium processing service for H-1B petitions. On July 24, 2017, USCIS announced that they are reinstating premium processing for H-1B petitions filed by cap-exempt employers.
Background of the H-1B Premium Processing Service Suspension
Effective April 3, 2017, USCIS suspended the premium processing service for all H-1B petitions and for a period of “up to six months.” This suspension was very broad: petitioners were not able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for any H-1B petition – including amendments, extensions, “transfers”, or “cap.” Unlike prior similar suspensions of premium processing, this time premium processing was suspended for all types of H-1B petitions.
This suspension has caused significant disruption to many H-1B employers and employees, many of whom have had to postpone important plans or actions due to the extremely long H-1B regular processing times.
The rationale behind this temporary suspension of the premium processing option for all H-1B petitions seems to have been the anticipated heavy demand and high number of H-1B “cap” filings starting April 3, 2017 together with the fact that regular H-1B case processing times have been steadily going up with some H-1B petitions taking more than ten months to review and process.
Premium Processing Reinstated for Cap-Exempt Employers
As of July 24, 2017, premium processing is reinstated for H-1B petitions filed by cap-exempt employers such as: (a) an institution of higher education; (b) a nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or (c) a nonprofit research or governmental research organization. Similarly, premium processing will also resume for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity (even if the actual employer is not such an employer).
When Would Premium Processing be Reinstated for Other Types of H-1B Petitions?
While we do not have a specific commitment by USCIS for reinstatement of premium processing for other types of H-1B petitions, we are noticing that they are aiming to reinstate the premium service gradually, to certain sets of H-1B petitions. As a result, we are anticipating that USCIS will be gradually reinstating premium processing service for more types of H-1B petitions and so far we believe USCIS is on track to reinstate premium processing for all, or most, H-1B petitions before October 1.
The extraordinary suspension of premium processing for a number of months has caused significant hardship on many employers and employees and we welcome the reinstatement of at least some premium processing service.
We urge H-1B employers who have filed or are planning to file H-1B petitions, including extensions or change of status applications, to plan carefully and consider the timings of such applications and the anticipated reinstatement of premium processing service over the following weeks.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any help in preparing for this unanticipated H-1B premium processing disruption of service. Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics.