USCIS Temporarily Suspends H-1B Visa Petition Premium Processing

Author: Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 7, 2017

Employers that were hoping to hire highly specialized foreign workers for positions in fields such as science, teaching, engineering and computer programming for fiscal year (FY) 2018 will be disappointed to learn that US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has suspended the premium processing of all H-1B visa petitions starting April 3, 2017, the first day on which the agency would have begun accepting such petitions this year. USCIS says the suspension is temporary, but it may last as long as six months.

The suspension applies to all petitions filed for:

  • The FY 2018 regular cap;
  • The master's advanced degree cap exemption; and
  • Cap-exempt petitions.

During the suspension period, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an H-1B petition. It will also reject checks submitted for combined amounts of Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, fees filed with H-1B petitions.

However, the agency will continue premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions for which an associated Form I-907 is properly filed before April 3. The premium processing fee will be refunded if:

  • A petitioner files Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3; and
  • USCIS does not act to decide on the petition within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

The agency notes that the temporary suspension on premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

During the suspension of premium processing, petitioners that meet one or more of the standard expedite criteria (i.e., severe financial loss to a company or individual, USCIS error, national interest) may submit a request to expedite an H-1B visa petition, although such requests are not often approved. Expedite requests will be decided on a case-by-case basis by USCIS. Submission of supportive documentary evidence is strongly advised.

USCIS notes that the suspension will help reduce overall H-1B processing times and allow the agency to:

  • Process the backlog of petitions that has resulted from a surge over the last few years in the volume of petitions and premium processing requests; and
  • Prioritize decisions on certain outstanding H-1B status extension cases.