United States: USCIS Resumes H-1B Premium Processing for Certain Foreign Physicians
Starting Monday, USCIS will resume premium processing for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of certain foreign physicians working in underserved areas of the United States or for federal agencies. Premium processing remains suspended for all other types of H-1B petitions, though the agency suggested that it plans a gradual phase-in of expedited processing as resources become available.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that starting Monday, June 26, 2017, it will resume premium processing for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of medical doctors who have received a waiver of the J-1 two-year home residency requirement under the Conrad 30 Waiver program or through an interested government agency. Premium processing remains temporarily suspended for all other H-1B petitions.
The premium processing suspension was put in place on April 3, 2017 to enable USCIS to clear its backlog of long-pending H-1B petitions. Though the agency suggested that the suspension could last for up to six months, USCIS officials have suggested that the agency plans to gradually phase in H-1B premium processing by case types, such as extensions, cap-exempt organization filings and cap filings. Agency officials could not provide a timeline, though the overall suspension is not expected to exceed the six months originally projected.
Today's announcement comes as welcome news to medical facilities that rely heavily on beneficiaries of Conrad 30 waivers. The Conrad 30 program allows physicians who are subject to the J-1 home residency requirement to remain in the United States on H-1B visas after completing their medical training, provided that they agree to work in rural and urban areas that have a shortage of physicians. By lifting the suspension now, these physicians can begin their medical service shortly after completing their residency and fellowship programs, which typically end on June 30.
What This Means for Foreign Workers and Their Employers
Employers petitioning on behalf of beneficiaries of Conrad 30 or interested government agency waivers and who were unable to submit a premium processing request or whose earlier request was rejected for the underlying H-1B extension petition can now upgrade to premium processing by submitting Form I-907 and its required fee.
All other H-1B case types remain under the premium processing suspension. Though USCIS suggested that premium processing may become available for other case types, the timing remains uncertain. Agency officials have indicated additional resources are needed in order to fully resume H-1B processing; the agency is in the process of training adjudicators to handle the additional workload. Fragomen is carefully monitoring the premium processing suspension and will provide updates as they become available.
This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.