U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting requests on Monday (June 26) for premium processing services for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of medical doctors filing under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program and through interested government agency waivers. USCIS temporarily suspended acceptance of premium processing requests for all H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017, with the stated goal of improving overall processing times. When it announced the suspension in March, it stated that the suspension period could last 6 months.

The related waiver programs allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ and sponsor for H-1B status physicians working in medically underserved areas who would otherwise be subject to requirements to return to their home countries after completing medical training in the U.S. pursuant to J-1 visas. The Conrad 30 Waiver Program allows for waiver of the residency requirement in order to allow a physician to stay and work in an underserved community, in the interest of increasing accessible medical care in rural and urban areas with a shortage of physicians. Interested government agency waivers allow for waiver of the residency requirement where a U.S. federal government agency determines and attests that there is a public interest in a physician remaining in the U.S.

Anticipated expansion of Premium Processing

Last Friday, during a panel discussion at the American Immigration Lawyers Association National Conference in New Orleans, USCIS Associate Director of Service Center Operations Donald Neufeld stated that USCIS plans to gradually add to the categories of H-1B petitions for which premium processing requests will be accepted throughout the Summer and Fall of 2017, and that premium processing will eventually be reinstated as an option for all H-1B petitions. No additional specifics on that timeline were provided.

Employer Insights:

  • Outside of the above narrow context explained above, employers should continue to plan for unavailability of premium processing for H-1B extension requests, transfer requests, or first-time applications filed by cap-exempt employers.
  • USCIS has promised to continue reinstating premium processing for categories of H-1B petitions. We will keep you posted as additional groups are reinstated this year.