As many of you know USCIS received a staggering 275K H1B registrations for FY 2021 season with the new H1B Registration Process. Also, as part of the H1B Visa 2021 Season, they also suspended H1B Premium processing for fiscal year 2021, including other visa types due to the COVID-19 situation. As USCIS is struggling as well with COVID-19 situation by remote working options and not able to handle load, today they sent out a message to all stakeholders announcing delays for H1B receipt number generation and data entry. In this article, we will cover all those details and implications for F1 OPT students and what you can do.
H1B 2021 Receipt Number Generation, Data Entry Delays
- Expect Delays –at least until May 1st, 2020: USCIS says that due to the load and COVID-19 situation, petitioners can expect delays for data entry and H1B Receipt Number Generation for FY 2021 filed cap subject petitions. The delay is at least until May 1st, 2020. It means that it can be delayed further… So, if you have filed a H1B petition in FY 2021 on April 1st and still waiting for receipt notice, then you would fall under this guidance and you will only receive receipt notice on or after May 1st, 2020. You do not have to worry, if you have not got a receipt notice for your H1B petition.
- Delay due to Health and Safety Protocols : They say that they delays are due to the health and safety protocols in place due to the COVID-19 situation. They do not go into details, but as you know USCIS Offices are closed for in-person activities and most of them work from home. Now, with these restrictions, some may not visit offices…also, it could be that, they do not even open packages for some time to rule out any health risk…We do not know…
- Order of Processing, Date of Filing : When USCIS begins data entry, they will use the actual date that they received the H1B petition at USCIS center for all purposes of filing and use the same date for receipt date. They will also process the petitions in the order they were received…
- Delays with Overall H1B Cap Subject Petitions Processing, Cap-Gap : USCIS says that due the delays in data entry, they say that the processing would also get delayed. This is not surprising, but it can have huge impact for many like F1 OPT students. They also say that they are mindful of the delays and how it can impact F1 Cap Gap students and will try to process them as soon as possible.
- No Change in Filing Window for H1B Registrations: They also clarified that this delay in data entry does not change the filing window for H1B petitions for FY 2021 season. As they mentioned earlie, the filing window which is on H1B Registration Selection Notices, is still the same and it is 90 days from April 1st until June 30th.
- Wait to Inquire about H1B Case until Receipt Notice : In general, you can check your H1B Case Status online using receipt number, but with the delays you will not have the case receipt number. So, USCIS is suggesting that employers to wait until they receive the receipt notice, before they make any inquiries…In general, many are curious and would call up USCIS to know the status…You cannot just call them until you get receipt notice, which is very likely in May 2020.
- Transfer of Petitions from One Service Center to Others : As in previous years, USCIS says they may transfer cases between their service centers to balance work load. You would see a status such as “Case Was Transferred and New Office has Jurisdiction”, if such thing happens. You can check various USCIS H1B Case Statuses, Screenshots, Meaning. USCIS will notify if anything as such happens in mail. This does not change the directions given in the H1B registration selection notice on where to file a petition, you should only file at such location.
What is the overall impact of the H1B Processing Delays ? VSC – 7 to 11 Months ?
The delays in H1B processing for Cap subject petitions can be really painful as there is no premium processing. To understand the implications, see below current processing times as of today from Vermont Service Center (VSC) for H1B petitions. It is anywhere from 7 to 11 months. So, even with current processing times, worst case situations, you may need to wait until March 2021 to get a decision….that’s really long wait… The processing times on USCIS website may or may not be accurate, so take it with a pinch of salt….But, in general, we have seen some users stuck for a year waiting for H1B petition decision.. So, be prepared for all these delays and plan accordingly. Hopefully USCIS opens up their premium processing service at some point this year.
Impact of Receipt Generation Delays for F1 OPT, STEM OPT Cap Gap Students ?
The biggest impact tied to the receipt generation delays is for F1 OPT and STEM OPT students, who plan to leverage Cap Gap provision from USCIS. Read OPT Cap Gap update in SEVIS, SEVP Portal Systems to get an idea on what happens when H1B petition is filed and pending. For someone with OPT ending before June 30th, they need to ensure that their H1B is filed before their OPT expiration date and pending with USCIS to get cap gap extension. Usually, if the receipt is generated, the cap gap is automatically extended…With the delays, the receipt notice generation may come in in mid-may now….So, you need to work with DSO to get your SEVIS status updated until June 30th. Take the Fedex or UPS mail delivery confirmation for your H1B petition, talk to your DSO and share the copy of the mail delivery and get your status in SEVIS updated until June 30th. Once you get your receipt notice, then you can share the same and get it updated to Sep 30th.
What do you think of the Delays in Receipt Generation? Share your thoughts in comments.
USCIS Stakeholder Alert Below