The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced on March 20 a temporary suspension of premium processing for all FY-2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
Per an email distributed by the USCIS, and later published to the agency's press room, this suspension is expected to last until Sept. 10, 2018.
H-1B Premium Processing Suspended Just Days Before USCIS to Begin Accepting Petitions
This news comes just two weeks before the USCIS is scheduled to begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap on April 2, 2018.
During the temporary suspension, the USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. Per the USCIS:
If a petitioner submits one combined check for the fees for Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, we will reject both forms. When we resume premium processing, petitioners may file a Form I-907 for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions that remain pending.
You Can Still Request Expedited Processing
A petitioner may still submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition if certain criteria are met. The full list of criteria can be found here on the USCIS’ Expedite Criteria page.
Expedite requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may be granted if one or more of the following criteria are met:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- 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.
Why Does the USCIS Suspend Premium Processing?
This is not the first temporary suspension of premium processing. In fact, the USCIS announced temporary suspension around this time last year, on April 3, 2017. At the time, the agency warned this could last up to six months, and the suspension was ultimately lifted exactly six months later on Oct. 3, 2017.
The USCIS said this year’s temporary suspension is being enacted to reduce overall H-1B processing times. In the agency’s own words, this suspension will allow the USCIS to:
- Process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and
- Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.
The USCIS encourages H-1B petitioners to subscribe to email updates on the H-1B FY 2019 Cap Season webpage. For more information on this year's H-1B cap season, feel free to check out our guide on how to prepare for the H-1B cap.
Should you have any questions about how this impacts your business or employees, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.