Premium Processing of H1B Petitions to be Temporarily Suspended Starting April 3, 2017

Update (July 24, 2017) The USCIS resumed premium processing of H1B petitions filed under the Conrad 30 Waiver program and petitions filed through the interested government agency waiver process [see article]. Furthermore, the USCIS resumed premium processing of certain cap-exempt H1B petitions [see article]. Premium processing for other H1B petitions remains suspended.

On March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H1B petitions starting on April 3, 2017 [link]. The USCIS explains that this suspension may last for up to six months. While premium processing is suspended, H1B petitioners will not be able to file the Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H1B nonimmigrant classification. The USCIS explains that it will provide public notice before it resumes premium processing for H1B petitions.

Processing of H1B Petitions

In this article, we will examine some of the specific effects of the temporary suspension of premium processing for H1B petitions as well as the USCIS's stated reasons for the suspension.

Please see our full article to learn about premium processing for other Form I-129 petitions [see article].

Who is Affected?

The USCIS explains that “[t]he temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017.” This means that it will apply “to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master's advanced degree exemption…” The suspension will also apply to H1B petitions that may be cap-exempt.

It is important to note that, in addition to not accepting a Form I-907 filed for a Form I-129 for an H1B petition, the USCIS will reject a Form I-129 H1B petition if it is submitted with a combined check for it and the Form I-907 request for premium processing of the Form 1-129 while premium processing is under suspension.

The USCIS explains that during the suspension it will continue to premium process form I-129 H1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed the associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. The USCIS will therefore refund the premium processing fee in such cases if the petitioner properly filed the Form I-907 before April 3, 2017, and if the USCIS then did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day premium processing period.

The USCIS makes explicit that the suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible classifications on the Form I-129.

Requesting Expedited Processing

Notwithstanding the suspension of premium processing, a petitioner may submit a request to expedite processing of a Form I-129 H1B petition. The petitioner must demonstrate that it meets one of the expedite criteria. Expedite requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Please see our full article to learn about expedited processing and the expedited processing criteria [see article].

Reason for the Suspension

The USCIS explains that the temporary suspension will help it reduce overall H1B processing times. It also states that the suspension will allow it to:

  • Process long-pending petitions, which it has been unable to process due to both the volume of incoming petition and the recent surge in premium processing requests; and
  • Prioritize the adjudication of H1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

Conclusion

Beginning on April 3, 2017, and until further notice, premium processing will not be available for H1B petitions. However, because of the suspension of the Premium Processing Service for H1B petitions, the USCIS will consider expedite requests for such petitions on a case-by-case basis. Expedited processing is only available in very limited circumstances. An H1B petitioner may consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance on whether it may meet one of the expedite criteria for purpose of making an expedited processing request. To learn about the expedited processing criteria, please see our full article [see article].