U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing of all H-1B petitions filed on and after April 3, 2017 – the first day of the H-1B cap filing season. The suspension will include all H-1B petitions, including  cap petitions subject to the undergraduate and master’s degree quotas, as well as cap-exempt petitions, extensions and change of status requests. The suspension may continue for as long as six months.

Key points:

  • All H-1B cap petitions filed this year will be ineligible for premium processing at the time of filing. Employers and individuals should anticipate delays in receiving H-1B cap decisions.
  • Employers planning to file premium processing requests for H-1B extensions of stay, change of employer or change of status should plan to file before April 3.

Background: USCIS announced the suspension Friday afternoon. While the agency usually suspends premium processing during the busy cap season, this year the suspension in premium processing includes all H-1B petitions.

The agency indicated the reason for the suspension of premium processing is to focus on backlogged petitions and to prioritize H-1B extensions that are nearing the 240-day mark. Employment authorization is automatically extended for timely filed H-1B extensions for up to 240 days. Government processing delays have led to loss of work authorization and an increase in premium processing requests.

USCIS will reject premium processing requests received on and after April 3, and will also return premium processing fees that were filed before April 3 where the agency does not take action on the case within 15 days.

Employers filing H-1B petitions may be eligible for expedited processing, but they must meet one of the criteria, such as severe financial loss to the company or individual, emergency situations, a compelling interest to USCIS, national interest, humanitarian reasons or USCIS error. Expedited requests are decided on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of USCIS.

BAL Analysis: Employers should expect delays in H-1B cap receipt notices for fiscal year 2018. Additionally, employers should track employees requiring H-1B extensions to prevent them from falling out of status and, in light of the suspension, plan to file any premium process requests by the end of March.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact BerryApplemanLeiden@bal.com.

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