U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Tuesday that it will extend its premium processing suspension for H-1B cap-subject petitions. The agency also said it will expand the suspension to cover some H-1B petitions that were not included in the initial suspension.

Key Points:

  • The current suspension for H-1B cap-subject petitions, which was initially expected to be lifted in September, will remain in place until Feb. 19, 2019.
  • USCIS will continue accepting premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not included in the current suspension until Sept. 10.
  • Beginning Sept. 11, the suspension will be expanded to include additional H-1B petitions. The only H-1B petitions for which premium processing will remain available are:
    • Petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer.”
    • Cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center where the employer is cap-exempt or where the employee will be working at a cap-exempt organization. These petitions are typically filed by universities and nonprofit research institutions.
  • During the suspension, all requests for premium processing that are filed with an H-1B petition covered by the suspension will be rejected and, if one check is sent for the premium processing fee and the H-1B petition, both forms will be rejected.
  • Petitioners may request expedited processing only in very limited circumstances, such as an emergency, severe financial loss to a company or individual, USCIS error or one of the other enumerated reasons. USCIS encourages petitioners to provide documentary evidence in support of these requests. Such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of USCIS.

Background: USCIS imposed the current suspension April 2, the first day cap-subject petitions could be submitted this year. The suspension was expected to be lifted in September, but the agency said Tuesday it is extending and broadening the current suspension in order to improve overall H-1B processing times by allowing it to process long-pending petitions, be more responsive to time-sensitive petitions and to prioritize H-1B extension-of-status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

BAL Analysis: USCIS’s announcement means that its H-1B cap premium processing suspension will be five months longer than initially expected and that it will apply to additional petitions beginning Sept. 11. Employers should anticipate delays in H-1B processing for pending cap cases and for transfer and amended petitions that are filed after Sept. 10. USCIS said it will notify the public on its website when it intends to lift the suspension. BAL will provide further updates as they become available.

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

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