Effective February 19, 2019, USCIS will resume accepting Premium Processing for all H-1B Petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018. The expedited service, which guarantees adjudication within 15 calendar days of filing for a fee of $1,410, has been suspended for most H-1B Petitions as of September 11, 2018, with February 19 as the forecasted date of return. Following its late-January announcement to finally allow Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap cases to upgrade to Premium Processing, USCIS confirmed last Friday that February 19 would mark its resumption on a much wider basis. However, and contrary to expectations, this return is not universal.
Specifically, and as noted above, USCIS advised that only those H-1B Petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018 are eligible to be upgraded to Premium Processing after President’s Day. Accordingly, for Petitions filed after that date, Premium Processing is still only available if the Petition is statutorily cap-exempt (e.g., filed by a university of nonprofit research organization) or if the Petition requests a continuation of previously approved employment without change. USCIS has not made any announcement with respect to this April’s H-1B Cap Lottery, but if the past two years and this week’s limited resumption are any indication, we would be surprised if Premium Processing will be available for the tens of thousands of Petitions selected this April. As always, expedited processing continues to be an option in limited circumstances.