USCIS announced earlier today that premium processing will be suspended for most of the H1B Visa petitions starting September 11th, 2018 until Feb 19th , 2019. Below is a summary of the update and how it will impact various H1B holders and prospective H1B seekers like F1 students, OPT, etc.
Summary of USCIS H1B Premium Processing Suspension until Feb 19th , 2019 :
Below is a quick summary on how the premium processing will apply to various visa holders.
- H1B Visa FY 2019 Cap Subject Applicants : USCIS originally suspended premium processing for H1B FY 2019 applicants in April and planned to resume in early September, but this has changed and the new guidance is that the premium processing suspension continues for FY 2019 cap subject applicants until Feb 19, 2019.
- H1B Extensions, Transfers : As per the press release, starting September 11th, 2018 until Feb 19th, 2019, the premium processing is suspended for most of the H1B applicants, filing either extensions or transfers filing petitions at Vermont and California Service Centres with two exceptions as listed below.
- Cap Exempt Employers : H1B Premium processing is available for cap exempt employers like Higher education institutions, government research entities and some qualified non-profit organizations that file petitions at California Service Center.
- H1B Extensions – With NO Change : H1B extensions without any changes as indicated in I-129 form. See below screenshot, If the employer selects option b in part 2 of I-129 i.e. “continuation of previously approved employment without any change with the same employer”, that are filed with Nebraska Service Center are eligible for premium processing.
- Option to Request Expedited Processing : Similar to announcement in April, if you require expedited processing due to reasons such as listed below, you can request for the same. More info on USCIS site. It is the responsibility of the petitioner to demonstrate the need and prove the reasons for expediting. It is ultimate decision of USCIS and discretion of the office leadership to process it or not
- Non-profit orgs that are in social, cultural interest of US
- Severe financial loss to company or the person
- Emergency Situations
- Humanitarian reasons
- Of Defense or national interest of US requested by US Govt.
- Any USCIS error or compelling interest of USCIS.
- Premium Processing Before Sept 11th, 2018 : USCIS will continue to accept Premium Processing for H1B applications until Sept 11th, 2018 for extensions, transfers. But, if USCIS is not able to adjudicate a premium processing petition filed before Sept 11th, 201 within 15 calendar day processing period, they will refund the premium processing fee. So, it is not fully guaranteed that filing premium processing will result in 15 days processing time even if you file it before Sept 11th.
Why USCIS is Suspending Premium Processing until next year ?
USCIS says that they are suspending premium processing for H1B petitions to help reduce their backlog of H1B petitions that are due over 240 days. They want to reduce the overall processing time for all H1B petitions by adjudicating all the long pending petitions. With premium processing in place, USCIS is receiving many of premium processing requests and not able to adjudicate regular processing petitions on time and they are overdue.
What’s the impact of the H1B Premium processing suspension till Feb 2019 ?
This news can impact the below visa holders in US in different ways and very significantly.
- F1 Students in Cap Gap – OPT : International students on F1 visa and in OPT Cap gap with no H1B approval by October 1st need to stop working after September 30th. This is a tricky scenario and OPT students in Cap Gap period…If your petition was filed as Change of Status, you may continue to stay in US until you receive decision, but your authorization to work ends on September 30th.
- Unlawful presence Memo – F1 Students : As you know, there are new guidelines by USCIS on how they look at F1 students Unlawful Presence after Aug 9th, 2018 , you need to extremely careful of your status and stay in US as 180 day mark for Unlawful status will hit by Feb 4th, 2019 and if your petition is denied for a reason that is due to unauthorized activity, you may be accumulating unlawful presence retroactively from August 9th and maybe facing 3 year bar( cannot get visa ) to enter US.
- H1B Transfers – Changing Employers : Many of the employers and employees prefer to have approved H1B petition before someone begins working at new employer. With the suspension of premium processing, it can take a very long time to have that approval and many employees may be less willing to change employers due to this uncertainty.
What do you think of the suspension of Premium Processing ? Any other impacts ?