On Friday, March 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a temporary suspension of the premium processing option for all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. This suspension includes Fiscal Year 2018 H-1B Cap cases, as well as cap-exempt petitions.
Premium processing is an expedited filing option for certain nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions. Employers may submit a premium processing request on Form I-907 and pay an additional filing fee of $1,225 so that USCIS will take action on that petition within 15 calendar days. The premium processing option allows companies additional time to develop alternative employment strategies for its employees. It also affords peace-of-mind for employer-sponsors and employee-beneficiaries. Most notably, premium processing reduces the risk of nonimmigrant status issues that may arise from an employee’s international travel plans.
USCIS stated that this suspension has been implemented in an effort to reduce overall processing times for regularly filed H-1B petitions, which are currently taking eight to 10 months to process. USCIS confirmed that the suspension is likely to last at least 6 months to allow adjudicators to catch up on the existing backlog.
Employees should contact HR, and companies are encouraged to work with their immigration legal counsel to evaluate options in light of the suspension. Delayed processing times could affect continued employment eligibility as well as travel eligibility for H-1B employees.
USCIS has stated that it will accept an expedite request for an H-1B petition if the company can demonstrate that it meets at least one of the following criteria:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation;
- Humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization whose request furthers the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- Department of Defense of national interest situation;
- USCIS Error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
- To demonstrate that a company’s need for an expedited H-1B approval falls under one of these criteria, significant documentary evidence must be submitted and the ultimate decision will be at the discretion of USCIS. Lane Powell will continue to evaluate options and provide updates.