On Mar 06 2017 by Elise A. Fialkowski

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Starting April 3

Beginning on April 3, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including cap-subject and cap-exempt petitions. Until April 3, USCIS will continue to premium process cases that include the requisite fee of $1,225 and an executed Form I-907.

The stated goal of the suspension is to allow USCIS to prioritize and adjudicate H-1B cases, such as extensions of H-1B status, that are near the 240-day mark or have been long-pending. This suspension is not unprecedented. USCIS has previously halted premium processing on certain types of cases to better manage workloads.

USCIS is currently taking between 6 and 11 months to adjudicate H-1B petitions, depending on the type of filing. The reasons for these long delays are, in part, due to the influx of cases being premium processed, which requires Officers to focus their efforts on premium processing cases, instead of cases filed with regular processing. This causes the regular cases to become even more backlogged. Further, the long processing times are due to ongoing staffing issues at USCIS. USCIS has been unable to hire the number of staff needed to handle the current workloads. Finally, the delay is also caused from a change in policy that material changes to employment require the filing of an H-1B amendment based on the decision in Matter of Simeio Solutions. (You can read more about Simeio Solutions at: http://www.klaskolaw.com/article/changes-to-foreign-nationals-employment-can-affect-visa-status/)

In order to better facilitate the processing of cases, USCIS has shifted workloads to other Service Centers over the last year to speed up processing. While this has been a temporary fix, there are still long delays in processing. To address this delay, USCIS has determined the best way to clear the backlog is to halt premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including cap cases.

The suspension of H-1B premium processing begins on April 3, the first day cap subject petitions can be filed under the FY2018 cap for H-1B employment beginning October 1, 2017. It is expected that the suspension will allow the agency time to conduct the H-1B lottery. Last year, some non-premium processing H-1B Cap applicants didn’t receive notification regarding whether they were selected under the Cap until July. By contrast, those who filed under premium processing last year were generally notified in April and May. Timing of notification regarding the lottery is not yet clear for this year, but it is hoped, especially in light of the suspension of premium processing, that notice will be provided earlier than the non-premium processing notifications from last year. 

The suspension could last up to six months. It is unclear when the USCIS will end the suspension especially when one considers that USCIS is forgoing the extra $1225 premium processing fee. USCIS’s website https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees recognizes that the agency is almost entirely funded by filing fees. Apart from the $500 Fraud fee and the $750/$1500 ACWIA fee for US worker training, USCIS will only be able to collect the standard $460 filing fee. This contrasts with the filing fees of $460 and $1225 submitted for premium processing cases. 

This suspension does not affect other I-129 cases, such as O-1, L-1, or H-3 petitions.

Please contact your Klasko Law attorney with any questions.