The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday, March 3, 2017, that it will be temporarily suspending premium processing of all H-1B petitions (the H-1B visa program employs foreign workers in specialty occupations, including but not limited to scientists, engineers, or computer programmers).This suspension will take effect on April 3, 2017.

April 3, 2017, also marks the first day that U.S. businesses can participate in the H-1B visa lottery (also known as "H-1B cap") for fiscal year 2018. As such, premium processing will not be available for any H-1B cap petitions this year.

In previous years, U.S. businesses could elect to pay an extra $1,225 for "priority" processing, which often resulted in the petition being processed within 15 calendar days of being receipted, as opposed to several months. Currently, processing times of H-1B petitions in which premium processing is not requested ranges between six and eight months.

USCIS indicated that the reason for suspension of premium processing is to clear its current backlog of H-1B petitions. USCIS further indicated that the suspension may last up to six months, and they will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Lewis Brisbois recommends that U.S. employers file any eligible premium processing requests for H-1B petitions by the end of March 2017.

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