Effective October 3, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) resumed premium processing for all H-1B visa extension of stay petitions. According to the USCIS, premium processing is now available for all types of H-1B petitions. Prior to March, 2017, premium processing was available if an additional filing fee of $1,225.00 was paid to the USCIS for premium service. In March, 2017, just prior to the start of the U.S. government’s new fiscal year and the start of the FY 2018, H-1B cap-subject, April 1, 2017 filing start date, the USCIS suspended premium processing for all types of H-1B petitions on the grounds that it needed more processing time to address its backlogs on existing cases. 

According to the USCIS, H-1B visas provide skilled workers for a wide range of specialty occupations, including information technology, engineering, and mathematics. When a Petitioner requests USCIS premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar day processing time after which time the H-1B petition must be approved or denied, or a Request for Evidence (“RFE”) must be issued. If that time is not met, the agency will refund the Petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application. If an RFE is issued, the USCIS will resume processing the H-1B Visa Petition but the clock re-sets and the USCIS is permitted an additional 15-calendar day processing time once a response to the RFE is received by the USCIS. 

In addition to resuming premium processing for H-1B visa extension of stay petitions, over the past few months, the USCIS had resumed premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the annual cap, petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program, as well as interested government agency waivers and certain H-1B petitions that were not subject to the cap with the extension of H-1B visa cases being delayed until October 3rd.