United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced that beginning April 3, 2017, it will suspend premium processing services for all H-1B petitions. Because FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed prior to April 3, 2017, all FY18 cap-subject petitions, including both regular cap and master’s cap, will be affected. Cap-exempt petitions may also be affected. The suspension is expected to last up to 6 months. During the suspension, H-1B petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Services. Importantly, if an H-1B petitioner submits a combined check containing a filing fee for both premium processing fees and H-1B Form I-129 fees, USCIS will reject both applications.
While premium processing is suspended, H-1B petitioners can request that their petition be expedited if they meet USCIS’s expedite criteria, which include but are not limited to emergency and humanitarian situations, severe financial loss to a company or person, and a national interest situation where the request originates from the government.
USCIS states that the purpose for the suspension is to help it reduce overall H-1B processing times, allowing it to prioritize H-1B extension-of-status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark, and allowing it to process long-pending H-1B petitions (which it has been unable to do due to the high volume of incoming H-1B petitions and the fact that premium processing requests have significantly increased in recent years).
It is as yet unclear precisely what effect this suspension will have on FY18 H-1B petitioners seeking an October 1, 2017 start date, as current processing times for non-premium processing H-1B petitions are up to one year in some cases.
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