H1B Visa processing by USCIS can vary a lot depending on the service center you filed with and the processing type you have chosen. If you are applying for an H1B petition with USCIS for the first time or even for transfers, you may wonder about the processing times, delays, typical processing times, if there is SLA, and many such questions. In this article, we will review all those details and also cover common FAQs as well.
If you are new to the H1B Visa process, you can read the below articles to get an idea of the general process, the meaning of USCIS’s H1B Statuses, and receipt numbers.
- How to Check USCIS status online using Receipt Number.
- Understanding H1B Case/Petition Number
- H1B Statuses RFE, Approval, Denial and How to check
H1B Processing Time – Types
H1B Visa Processing time with USCIS varies based on the type of processing that the employer or sponsor chooses when they file the H1B petition. There are two types of processing – 1. regular processing and 2. premium processing. An employer can choose to file in one of these processing types when they file any of the following with USCIS.
- New H1B cap-subject petitions (filed after selection in H1B Lottery)
- H1B transfer petitions
- H1B amendments
- H1B Extensions.
Sometimes, USCIS also suspends premium processing during the start of the H1B season in April to handle the high volume, and they open the same in phases. Now, let’s look at each of the processing types in detail
H1B Regular Processing Time (cap-subject)
If an employer or sponsor files an H1B petition with USCIS using the standard process and does not include an extra fee for faster processing, then the petition is said to be filed in Regular Processing. It is typically when the applicant goes through the H1B lottery and files for an H1B petition after selection.
H1B Regular Processing Documents, Fee
In general, an employer would submit USCIS Form I-129 along with relevant H1B Filing Fee, and supporting documents as listed in H1B Filing Checklist by USCIS. There is no filing of Form I-907 or additional premium processing fee, when you file in regular processing.
How long does USCIS take for H1B Regular processing?
There is no fixed time or SLA ( service level agreement) time defined by USCIS for H1B Regular processing. It depends on the filing location and the load at the USCIS processing center. Also, every case is unique and there can be different processing times for different cases.
Based on USCIS historical processing times, from the last 5 years (FY 2017 to FY 2022), it can take anywhere from 2 to 5 months for the H1B petition filed in Regular processing using form I-129. See the below screenshot from the USCIS website based on historical processing times for the last 5 years.
For FY 2023 (until the end of December 2022), as you can see in the below screenshot is about 3.9 months. It means that roughly after you get the receipt notice, you should have the decision on your petition within four months.
If the applicant gets an RFE ( Request for Evidence), then, in that case, it can take beyond 6 months as well. If there are no complexities with the case, you may get a decision much faster in 2 months or less. To check current processing times by service center, you can check the article Check USCIS H1B Visa Processing times
H1B Premium Processing Time
If an employer or sponsor pays an extra premium processing fee to USCIS to have the H1B petition adjudicated (decision) within 15 calendar days, then that petition is said to be filed in H1B premium processing.
H1B Premium Processing Documents, Fee
To file an H1B petition in premium processing, the employer or sponsor need to file Form I-907 along with a premium processing fee of $2,500 when they file an H1B petition using Form I-129. The premium processing fee is in addition to the general H1B filing fee. An employer can file for premium processing at the time of filing or upgrade to premium processing after filing and getting the receipt notice.
How long does USCIS take for H1B Premium processing?
USCIS takes 15 calendar days or less to adjudicate an H1B petition filed in premium processing. They have 15 days SLA (service level agreement) and guarantee that any H1B petition filed in premium processing will be adjudicated in 15 calendar days or less.
For FY 2023 season ( until December 2022), the current premium processing time average is about 0.3 months, which is about ten days. If you were to file in premium, you should get a decision in about ten days as per current processing times.
If they do not meet the 15 days timeline, they will refund the premium processing fee and continue to process the H1B in expedited processing. This happens, when there is an extensive load and USCIS cannot meet its SLA. It does not happen often but happens once in a while during the start of the H1B season.
H1B Extension Processing Time
The processing time for an H1B Extension petition depends on how it was filed. If it was filed under regular processing or premium processing. If it was filed under Premium processing time, then you can expect to have a decision within 15 calendar days. The fee and SLA are similar to the general new H1B petition. Unlike, if it was filed in Regular Processing, the processing time can vary based on where it was filed and the processing times at the service center.
In general, the H1B extension processing can be slightly faster than regular processing, if there are not many changes in the employment terms and role of the H1B employee. This is because USCIS can give some weightage or deference to the previous first H1B approval and use that for the extension.
H1B Transfer Processing Time
Similar to H1B extension filings, for H1B Transfer as well, the processing time varies based on what type of processing you choose. If you file in Premium Processing, you will get a decision within 15 calendar days, but if you file in regular processing, it can vary based on where it was filed and the case. It can vary anywhere from 3 to 6 months or more.
Typically, the H1B transfer petition is filed with a new employer and there is no previous approval history. So, it would be looked like a new petition, and it can take more time than the H1B extension petition processing time.
Should you apply for Premium H1B Visa Processing?
It totally depends on your situation. In recent years, many employers try to file H1B in premium processing because they would know the decision faster and can plan accordingly based on that to have the employee work from October 1st. Having said that, unless there is a need, you do not need to apply for premium processing. Think of it logically, you cannot work until October 1st…why waste money?
Also, in most recent years, premium processing has been suspended for H1B cap-subject petitions to decrease the overall processing times of all petitions. But, unlike the new cap subject petition, for H1B Transfer scenarios, employers usually apply for premium processing because of two reasons, first, they can work right away and need not wait till October 1st, and secondly, they are changing between companies, you do not want to be stuck with old employer during this time. You can consider doing premium when you are at the beginning of August or early September.
Applied for H1B Petition in April, but still USCIS status says “Case Received,” What should I do?
Well, unfortunately, there is nothing you can do but wait for USCIS to process your application. As I said above, it can take anywhere from 2 to 5 months or more. All you can do is wait. Do NOT panic that you are not getting any response from USCIS. As long as your application was filed properly and the company is good, you should get approval.
Here are few things you can do:
- If you are really curious, you may apply for H1B visa premium processing anytime for general petitions by paying $2,500 and upgrading your case. Your employer has to do the premium processing through the attorney. You cannot do it on your own.
- You can ask your attorney to call USCIS and ask the status. In the past, one of our blog readers said, they had success and their application decision was done in a week after calling. Although, there is no guarantee. Worth a shot.
- You can check the particular service center where your petition was filed and get approximate processing times to get an idea. You can do this on USCIS website it is under bottom where you check your case status.
- Just wait. I understand the anxiety…but there is no shortcut.
H1B Visa FY 2024 Processing timelines – Regular vs. Premium?
USCIS has not given any info, if they would suspend premium processing for H1B FY 2024 season. So, if you were to file in premium processing, you would get a decision within 15 days. As per the historical data until December 2022, it is around 10 days or 0.3 months.
Regarding regular processing for FY 2023 cap-subject petitions, the average processing is somewhat conflicting. Below are the two data points.
- Historical Trend Data: As per the average processing times given by USCIS in their historical processing times as of August 31st, 2022, the processing time is about 2.8 months ( see above screenshot).
- Current Trend Data: As per the current processing times, it is anywhere from 5 to 7 months for the California Service center and less than 4 months for other service centers. See below data from the USCIS processing times website, presented by VisaGrader H1B Processing times.
So, based on two data points, for FY 2023 H1B petitions filed with USCIS, you can expect decision on your case anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 months.
Also, the better thing than the published USCIS processing times is looking at the H1B Tracker data contributed by the community. Check below for more info.
H1B Visa Tracker
You can check out the average H1B Visa processing times using VisaGrader’s H1B Visa Tracker All the data on our tracker page is contributed by users like you. Please add your H1B case by registering and continue to update your status. It will help others get an idea.
Register at VisaGrader – H1B Visa Tracker
Hopefully, this clarifies most of the commonly asked questions about H1B processing. If you see anyone ask a question on the blog, please point them to this article.
Current H1B Processing times, History
You can check USCIS.gov for Processing times or on a website like VisaGrader.com for the same. The big difference is, VisaGrader has historical data and gives you a holistic view of the processing times across all the Service Centers as in the below screenshot. So, you can check Current H1B Visa Processing Times on VisaGrader.com
Unfortunately, there is no defined turnaround time/ SLA ( service level agreement) requirement for USCIS to respond to H1B petitions filed with them under regular processing. The 15 calendar days SLA only applies to petitions filed under premium processing.
No, applying for H1B premium processing will not increase your chances for getting H1B petition approved. It just expedites the processing time. So, do not be mislead by the fact that $2,500 will increase chances of approval. Read 5 H1B Visa Myths you need to know
In fact, there is no difference between a regular H1B petition and transfer except the transfers are not considered towards cap. So, the processing times are pretty much similar. It can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months based on historical processing times by USCIS in last 5. years. You can read How to check H1B visa processing times at USCIS Service centers
How much was your H1B Visa filing processing time ? Any thoughts to share on the processing time waiting ?