USCIS Suspends Premium Processing of All H-1B Petitions April 3, 2017

Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to six months and USCIS indicates that it will help reduce the overall H-1B processing times. USCIS has stated its goal is to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of cases that are nearing the 240-day mark and other long-pending petitions.

The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017, including all petitions filed for the Fiscal Year ‘18 (10/1/2017-9/30/2018) H-1B regular cap and advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”) as well as any cap-exempt petitions.

USCIS will reject any Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) filed with an H-1B petition during the suspension period. If one combined check is submitted with an H-1B petition for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, USCIS will reject both forms.

USCIS will continue premium processing for Form I-129 H-1B petitions if properly filed with a request for premium processing before April 3, 2017. However, USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  1. The Form I-907 requesting premium processing for an H-1B petition was filed before April 3, 2017, and
  2. USCIS did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing (Note: this means the petition must really be filed more than 15 days before April 3, 2017 in order to be adjudicated before the suspension goes into effect.)

Expedited Processing in Limited Situations

After April 3, 2017, a petitioner may still ask USCIS to expedite a petition or application if they can demonstrate that one or more of the following criteria have been met:

  • Severe financial loss to the company or the individual (beneficiary);
  • Emergency situation;
  • Humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
  • Department of Defense or national interest situation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government);
  • USCIS error; or
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.

USCIS will review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

The USCIS alert is available here: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-will-temporarily-suspend-premium-processing-all-h-1b-petitions.

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Reform H-1B and L-1 Visas

A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 to overhaul these visa programs and get tough on companies that take high-skill jobs away from U.S. citizens by outsourcing them to foreign workers.

Specifically, the legislation would require:

  • Employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before hiring foreign workers;
  • Prohibit employers from replacing American workers with H-1B or L-1 workers;
  • Modify existing H-1B wage requirements on the Labor Condition Application;
  • Establish wage requirements for L-1 workers;
  • Prohibit employers from outsourcing H-1B and L-1 visa holders to other sites unless the employer obtains a waiver; and
  • Grant the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security more authority to investigate fraud and abuse in these two visa programs.

The legislation also aims to prohibit companies from hiring H-1B workers if the company employs more than 50 people and if more than 50 percent of the employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders.

The legislation would create a new H-1B visa allocation system that prioritizes workers who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from U.S. schools.

The legislation would also raise penalties on those who violate the law and would provide visa holders with a list of rights to protect them against mistreatment and underpayment of wages.