In what seems like déjà vu, today, March 20, 2018 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) formally announced that the agency will be temporarily suspending premium processing service for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions that seek an exemption for individuals who possess a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The suspension is expected to last until September 10, 2018. Based on similar announcements made by USCIS in the past, we expect premium processing service to remain suspended until at least September 10.
As some of you may remember, USCIS suspended premium processing in a similar fashion during April of last year for fiscal year 2018 cap-subject petitions, and lifted the suspension until September 18 of 2017.
Petitions not subject to FY 2019 Cap
Premium processing requests will continue to be accepted for H-1B petitions NOT subject to the FY 2019 cap. USCIS will make an announcement as we get closer to September notifying the public regarding any decision to resume premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions. In previous years, USCIS lifted the suspension in July for beneficiaries who were exempt from the cap, because of their employment at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization, or entity. We expect USCIS to follow a similar pattern in July of this year, with the temporary suspension for cap-subject petitions being lifted sometime in early September.
What is premium processing?
Premium processing service refers to an optional premium processing service offered by USCIS to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). Premium processing guarantees 15 calendar day processing to petitioners who make use of the service. Applications that are not processed within 15 calendar days, receive a refund of the $1,225 premium processing fee, and are processed expeditiously. To make use of the service, petitioners must file Form I-907 with their application and include the appropriate fees. The I-907 request for premium processing service can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately pending a decision. The service is only available for pending petitions with USCIS.
Petitioners should NOT submit a Form I-907 requesting premium processing service until USCIS has formally announced resumption of services for cap-subject H-1B petitions. Any premium processing requests filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject petition will be REJECTED. DO NOT provide a combined check for the I-907 and I-129 petition filing fees. Doing so will result in the rejection of both forms, and zero chances of being selected in the lottery.
Once USCIS has made an announcement that premium processing has been resumed, petitioners may file Form I-907 for any FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition that remains pending.
Why the Suspension?
USCIS will be temporarily suspending premium processing services for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions in order to reduce processing times and prioritize processing of H-1B extensions nearing the 240-day mark.
Expedite requests will be accepted for FY 2019 cap-subject petitions for those who meet the expedite criteria:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation;
- Humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- Department of Defense or national interest situation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
WARNING: Last year, when premium processing service first re-opened in September for cap-subject petitions, and in October for all H-1B petitions, USCIS had approved all cases filed by our office that were upgraded to premium processing, including cases in which a request for evidence was issued. By contrast, petitions that were upgraded by our office in late October through the month of November were denied across the board. This trend was observed by many immigration attorneys. Due to this wave of denials for premium processing requests filed in October through November, we strongly recommend consulting with an attorney BEFORE upgrading your petition to premium processing once the service resumes in September.