The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced late this week, the temporary suspension of the premium processing for all H-1B petitions.  

As a backgrounder, some nonimmigrant work visas and employment-based immigrant visa categories are eligible for premium processing.  The specific legal provision that allows this may be found in Section 286(u) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  With premium processing in place, your petition would then be evaluated and adjudicated within fifteen (15) calendar days.

The premium processing application used is Form I-907 and the fee is currently set at USD1,225.  If your employer is filing a petition that is premium processing eligible, this fee must be included in the regular filing fees when your petition is filed.

Reasons for temporarily suspending Premium Processing for H-1B visa petitions.

Two official reasons are being given as basis for the suspension:

  1. The USCIS would like to prioritize evaluating and deciding on H-1B extension of status cases, a number of which will be falling under the 240-Day Rule;
  2. The USCIS wishes to process petitions that have not been processed completely due to the number of new petitions being filed and an increase in the number of requests for premium processing.

H1-B status may be granted for up to three years and a request may be filed with the USCIS for the H1-B holder for another three years. Therefore, an H-1B visa holder can remain in the United States for a maximum of 6 years.  While waiting for the approval of the second set of 3 years, the H1-B holder may continue working for his current employer for up to 240 days, hence the "240-Day Rule."

Once the request for extension of the H-1B visa has been approved, the foreign national would be considered to be "in status" during the period he waited for the decision.  If the request for extension is disapproved however, the H-1B holder must immediately stop working and make arrangement to leave the United States.

Who Is Affected?

With the suspension of premium processing, which may last up to 6 months, employers will not be able to file Form I-907 when the H-1B petitions are filed on or after April 3, 2017.  Petitions that will be affected will be those for Fiscal Year 2018.

If you recall, some H-1B petitions are subject to a cap albeit there are some exemptions such as the master's advanced degree cap exemption also known as the master's cap.  This temporary suspension will be applied to ALL regular cap and cap-exempt petitions.  The USCIS intends to be strict about the implementation of the suspension.  Hence, if an employer tenders payment for the regular application AND premium processing fees and submits the petition packet together with the I-907, the USCIS will reject both the H-1B petition and I-907.

Was your petition filed before the cut-off date?  If yes, then your petition will be processed regularly.  In this case, the premium processing fee will be refunded to your employer only if the USCIS did not adjudicate your petition within the law-mandated 15 calendar day period.

And remember, only petitions for the H-1B nonimmigrant visa will be affected for now.  

Is there any way to bring an H-1B visa holder to the United States sooner?

Yes, there is!  If your employer believes that has reason to expedite your H-1B petition, he must contact the National Customer Service Center (or NCSC) for the service request.  He must however, be willing to justify filing the request by meeting at least one of the expedite criteria.  


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About the Author

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

About the Contributor

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer Aranda

Jennifer S. Aranda is the COO of IVC Immigrant Visa Center, Inc.


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