H-1B Premium Processing Resumes for 2018 Cap Filings

 

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 29, 2019
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Fast-track processing has resumed for H-1B cap-subject visa petitions filed in April 2018.

On Jan. 25, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced its decision to lift the nine-month suspension of premium processing for any pending fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-1B cap petitions. The popular service, which allows petitioners to pay an additional fee for expedited processing, resumed Jan. 28.

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"This is an important development for those who have been waiting since April 2018 to have their cases adjudicated, especially for those who no longer have work authorization," said Anna Susarina, an attorney in the White Plains, N.Y., office of Jackson Lewis.

USCIS said it would reinstate premium processing only for H-1B petitions that are already pending, not for new submissions. "The resumption of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 cap petitions does not mean that premium processing will be available for fiscal year 2020 petitions," she said.

Catherine Betts, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Faegre Baker Daniels, explained that premium-processing upgrade requests can be made for FY 2019 H-1B cap petitions that remain pending without a request for evidence (RFE). "Similarly, for employers who have received RFEs for pending fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap petitions, a premium-processing request may be submitted along with the RFE response," she added.

The premium-processing suspension remains in effect for other H-1B petition types, including:

  • Petitions to request a change of employer.
  • Petitions to amend existing H-1B status.
  • Petitions to change visa status from one visa type to another.

"USCIS has not commented on when premium processing will resume for other types of H-1B petitions," Betts said.

Premium processing remains available for cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center, and for petitions for the continuation of previously approved employment without a change of employer, filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center.

USCIS paused premium processing in April 2018 for all FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions, before announcing in August that it would extend the suspension and expand its scope to include additional categories of H-1B petitions.

The reason given was to allow it to catch up on processing petitions for the first half of 2018.

An "increased volume of petitions and a significant surge in premium-processing requests" caused the suspension of premium processing for H-1B visas, which was initially projected to last into February 2019, an agency spokesperson said. "The extension of the temporary suspension, announced Aug. 31, enabled USCIS to continue to effectively adjudicate H-1B petitions, particularly long-pending extension-of-stay petitions, and reduce overall H-1B processing times."

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