CFGI Quoted – “USCIS Suspends H-1B Visa Premium Processing”

3/7/2017
SHRM


“Beginning April 3, employers will no longer be able to use the government's expedited processing program for H-1B visa cases

“The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) is temporarily suspending premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including those counted against the annual H-1B numerical cap, for up to six months, according to an announcement on March 3.

“…The suspension will delay adjudication of all H-1B cap-subject cases filed for fiscal year (FY) 2018, as well as H-1B petitions that are exempt from the annual quota, like extensions of stay, and change-of-employer requests.

“…‘The timing makes it clear to me that it is related to cap-filing season,’ said Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison at the Council for Global Immigration, an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management. ‘In previous H-1B cap seasons, USCIS delayed premium processing of cap cases for a period of time while the [H-1B visa] lottery was being run,’ he said. ‘This year, USCIS is taking a much broader approach in suspending premium processing across the board. It's definitely more expansive.’

“USCIS explained that the suspension will help reduce overall H-1B processing times and allow the agency to catch up on the backlog of pending petitions, especially H-1B extension petitions nearing 240 days past expiration, when continued employment authorization can be in peril.

“‘By temporarily suspending premium processing, USCIS intends to adjudicate long-pending H-1B petitions that are the result of the high volume of filed petitions and increased number of premium processing requests in recent years,’ said Julie Pearl, CEO and managing attorney of the Pearl Law Group, based in the San Francisco Bay area.

“‘The backlogs are unprecedented, and those employers who have been patiently waiting in line but not paying the premium processing fees have been suffering,’ said Kim Thompson, a partner in the Atlanta office of law firm Fisher Phillips. ‘We have seen very long waits for H-1B extensions that were filed under regular processing, and this has caused problems with those employers and employees who cannot afford to pay the premium processing fee…’

“…Whether the suspension of premium processing will cure the backlog issues and get the petition process back on track remains to be seen… 

“...For H-1B cap cases, the suspension will mean a longer wait for employers wondering if their employee has been selected for the visa lottery, and once selected, "it could mean that we may not have approval of the case by Oct. 1, 2017," Thompson said.

“Storch advised employers to identify any cases which might require premium processing prior to April 3 and consider filing those cases with premium processing by that date.

“‘Premium processing may still be used for cases received by USCIS prior to April 3 and beyond April 3 for categories other than H-1B for which premium processing is available,’ he said.

“…While premium processing is suspended, employers may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the agency's Expedite Criteria webpage, but the threshold for satisfying those criteria is high, according to immigration attorneys.”

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