Starting April 3, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months.
This could affect Indian applicants who form the largest pool, about 70 percent of those who apply for the 85,000 H1-B visas available annually. And some top American companies and Indian outsourcing companies are among the largest users of this category of skilled worker visas. Fears have risen among the potential cohort of H1-B visa applicants about the Trump administration possibly taking an anti-H1-B visa stance and cutting down the program. In fact, it has become an issue the Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar raised with top officials of the Trump administration during his visit here March 1-4.
Companies pay more than $1,000 extra to file the Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. These applications appear to be rising in number, and the USCIS says it is suspending it in order to clear some of the backlog.
Now till the H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907. The USCIS said in a March 3 press release that it will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.
The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3. The reason for the temporary suspension is meant to help the agency clear the backlog and reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, the agency said it will be able to process long-pending petitions, which it has currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years. It will also be able to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.
Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3 this year, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption. The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.
The agency warned it will suspend any For I-907 forms filed while premium processing is suspended,. “If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, we will have to reject both forms,” the agency said.
However, it will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if the petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, and if USCIS did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.
This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.
While premium processing is suspended, petitioners can still submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. The agency indicated petitioners had a better chance if hey submitted documentary evidence to support the expedite request. “We review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership,” the USCIS said.