On August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that the suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Cap Petitions will extend beyond September 10, 2018 and will last until February 19, 2019. By way of background, H-1B employers could elect Premium Processing upon payment of an additional fee. Premium Processing compels USCIS to provide a decision on an H-1B petition within 15 days of filing the petition and the request.
For many H-1B petitions that were filed as part of the FY2019 cap, the continued suspension means that employers cannot file premium processing requests to compel USCIS to approve H-1B cap cases before October 1, 2018 - negatively impacting employers ability to offer continued employment to affected applicants.
Although the suspension of premium processing applies to all H-1B cases beginning September 11, 2018, premium processing is still available for:
- Petitions to extend an H-1B worker’s status in order to continue previously approved employment for the same employer, or
- Petitions filed by H-1B Cap-Exempt employers, including research institutions.
USCIS advised that it will continue to premium process all H-1B cases that filed Premium Processing requests prior to September 11, 2018. The agency also indicated that H-1B petitioners could request for expedited processing upon proving certain criteria.
USCIS asserts that the suspension will allow the agency to prioritize cases that have been pending close to 240 days and to address the high volume of incoming petitions. While current regulations automatically authorize an H-1B worker to continue working for his or her current employer upon timely filing a petition to extend H-1B status, automatic work authorization only lasts for 240 days or until an H-1B approval notice is issued. The sudden increase in H-1B processing times will also affect an H-1B worker’s international travel plans.
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