On May 19, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a temporary suspension of its “premium processing” program as it relates to H-1B extensions in the United States. The suspension will be in effect from May 26, 2015, until July 27, 2015. Premium processing is an optional USCIS program whereby, for an additional government fee of $1,225, the USCIS will adjudicate petitions in 15 calendar days instead of the usual time period of several months. USCIS indicates that this measure will allow it to focus on implementation of the H-4 EAD final rule, which goes into effect on May 26, 2015.
USCIS will resume premium processing for H-1B extensions of stay on July 27, 2015. In the interim, employers may continue to file H-1B extensions with regular government processing, and if needed, upgrade the petition to premium processing on July 27, 2015, or later. This suspension of premium processing affects H-1B extensions filed for continued employment with the same employer, as well as H-1B change of employer (i.e., transfer) petitions filed for beneficiaries currently working in H-1B status. This suspension of premium processing service does not affect petitions for a change of status from other nonimmigrant status to H-1B or petitions requesting consular notification for prospective employees located outside the United States.
During the time frame from May 26, 2015, to July 27, 2015, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for an H-1B petition requesting extension of stay. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B extension of stay petitions filed with Form I-907 prior to May 26, 2015. USCIS will refund the $1,225 premium processing fee if the premium processing request was received by USCIS prior to May 26, 2015, and USCIS did not act on the case within the 15 calendar-day period.
As reminder, an H-1B worker is typically authorized to continue residing and working in the United States without interruption as long as the H-1B extension petition is received by USCIS (even if the petition is not approved) prior to the expiration of the current H-1B status. An H-1B beneficiary can also begin employment with a new employer upon receipt from USCIS of the H-1B “change of employer” petition; the H-1B petition does not have to be approved prior to the H-1B beneficiary’s start date with the new employer. Most H-1B beneficiaries will be unaffected by this USCIS announcement.