Today, USCIS announced that they will be extending the suspension of premium processing till February 19th, 2019 and it will NOW include certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions. USCIS is extending the suspension in an aim to reduce overall processing times.
Who Is Affected:
As of September 11, 2018, the premium processing suspension applies to ALL H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, this includes cap-subject and cap-exempt petitions such as H-1B Transfers, H-1B Extension and H-1B Amendments.
USCIS will continue premium processing of H-1B petitions for cap-exempt petitions that are filed BEFORE September 11, 2018.
This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to any other non-immigrant classifications filed on Form I-129, including O-1, L-1, TN, H-2B, H-1B1 and P classification.
Premium Processing Remains Available for Certain H-1B Petitions:
The premium processing suspension DOES NOT apply to:
- Cap-exempt petitions that are filed exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or
- Those petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” (Box b. on Part 2, Question 2, Page 2 of the current Form I-129) with a concurrent request to:
- Notify the office in Part 4 so each beneficiary can obtain a visa or be admitted. (Box on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129); or
- Extend the stay of each beneficiary because the beneficiary now holds this status. (Box c. on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129).
Requesting Expedited Processing:
While premium processing is suspended, H-1B petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet certain criteria. The H-1B petitioner must demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and petitioners should be prepared to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request. USCIS will review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests will be granted at their discretion.
USCIS Reasoning for Suspension:
USCIS is implementing the temporary suspension to reduce overall H-1B processing times. They believe it will allow them to:
- Process long-pending petitions, which they have been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and premium processing requests over the past few months;
- Be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates; and
- Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.