USCIS extends suspension of H-1B premium processing to February 19, 2019

On August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that it was expanding and extending the suspension of premium processing for many categories of H-1B petitions. The suspension is predicted to last through February 19, 2019. Only the following categories of H-1B petitions will still be eligible for premium processing: (1) extensions of stay without change with the same employer filed at the Nebraska Service Center; and (2) Cap-exempt petitions filed at the California Service Center where the employer is a cap-exempt employer, or the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution (such as a university).

Premium processing will NOT be available for all of the following H-1B categories:

  • FY 2019 lottery petitions
  • Change of employer
  • Amended petitions due to a change of location or other reasons
  • Change of status to a non-exempt employer for persons previously counted under the cap .

Prior to the announcement, USCIS had suspended premium processing for 2019 lottery winners, but not for the other categories listed above. USCIS will continue premium processing of any eligible petitions filed before September 11, 2018.

The suspension creates serious problems for several classes of beneficiaries, including the following:

  • Former students with cap gap extensions through September 30, 2018, whose H-1B petitions have not yet been adjudicated. Their work authorization will terminate on September 30. They will then have a 60 day grace period through December 30, 2018. After that date they will have to leave the U.S. If the petitions are then approved, they will need to obtain H-1B visa stamps to return to the U.S.
  • Beneficiaries changing employers, who want to have an approved H-1B petition rather than porting to the new employer. Due to the sharp increase in H-1B denials, it may be risky in some cases to leave the old employer until the new petition is approved. An experienced immigration lawyer can be helpful in analyzing a given scenario to determine the likelihood of a denial in any given case.

For a fee of $1,225, USCIS will process eligible petitions within 15 calendar days of filing. This means USCIS will issue an approval, denial, or RFE within 15 days. The fee will increase to $1,410 as of October 1, 2019.