Last week, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued two important announcements regarding the filing of H-1B petitions:

  1. As of May 26, 2015USCIS will suspend premium processing on H-1B extension petitions until July 27, 2015, in order to devote sufficient resources to the anticipated flood of H-4 work authorization applications.
  2. USCIS released guidance on May 21, 2015, regarding filing amended H-1B petitions due to an employee’s change in work location in light of recent Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) decision, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC. Employers have until August 19, 2015, to file amended petitions for any employees who have changed work site locations to a new metropolitan statistical area (MSA) since the approval of the original H-1B petition and for whom no amended petition has been filed.

What do these announcements mean for employers who sponsor H-1B workers and the employees they sponsor?

There are a number of situations, such as driver’s license expiration dates tied to status expiration dates or issues tied to international travel, which may make the premium processing option appealing in some situations. Employers should plan extension filings well in advance of an employee’s expiration to account for the lack of the premium processing option.

With regard to the USCIS guidance following Simeio, failure to file amended petitions for employees who have changed work locations by the August 19 deadline could result in sanctions for the employer due to noncompliance with immigration regulations, as well as implications for the employee due to failure to maintain status. Employers will also need to plan for work site changes well in advance to allow for the time to prepare and file proper amendments. It is good practice for employees, Human Resources Departments, and legal teams to be aware of the logistical and monetary costs of potential changes in the position. Companies should contact their immigration attorney to discuss any change in the position, whether that be a change in work site, duties, promotion, etc., well in advance of any change in order to discuss any legal implications.