United States: USCIS to Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing of FY 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions
USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing of all FY 2019 H-1B cap filings starting April 2, 2018. The suspension is expected to last until September 10, 2018. The agency has indicated that it will continue to accept premium processing requests for non-cap H-1B cases, such as extensions and most changes of employer.
A closer look
USCIS says that the suspension will allow the agency to process long-pending petitions and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extensions that are nearing the 240-day mark.
During the suspension, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, filed with a FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. If the premium processing fee is combined in a single check with other H-1B cap fees, USCIS will reject the petition package.
Expediting cases in urgent situations
In urgent situations, employers can request faster processing if a case meets USCIS’s longstanding expedite criteria, but employers must be aware that expedites are only granted at USCIS’s discretion and are issued very rarely -- for emergencies, humanitarian situations, in cases of severe financial loss to the employer or foreign national, and a few other very limited circumstances.
What this means for employers
The suspension means that FY 2019 H-1B cap cases will not be eligible for 15-day processing until the premium suspension is lifted. Though premium processing does not affect the chances that an H-1B petition will be selected in the cap lottery, it does provide greater certainty to beneficiaries – in particular, F-1 students who are changing status to H-1B and whose optional practical training (OPT) or course of study will terminate between April 2 and October 1, a period known as the “cap gap.”
The suspension may also delay a foreign national's ability to travel internationally between April 2 and the approval of the H-1B cap petition. Travel while a change of status is pending and before it is approved will cause it to be deemed abandoned (though the underlying H-1B petition remains approvable). A foreign national who travels abroad before the change of status is approved would have to take extra steps to assume H-1B status on October 1.
Fragomen closely tracks USCIS processing of H-1B cases and will issue updates as developments occur. If you have any questions about USCIS’s suspension of H-1B cap premium processing, or about H-1B cap processing in general, please contact your designated Fragomen professional. This alert is for informational purposes only.