The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced, on September 18, 2017, that it has resumed premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2018 cap. USCIS had originally announced on March 3, 2017 that it would be suspending the premium processing program for all H-1B petitions received on April 3, 2017 or later, including all of the “cap-subject” H-1B petitions for FY 2018. This resumption of premium processing applies to pending petitions pursuant to both the 65,000 “regular” cap and the 20,000 U.S. advanced degree cap.
The H-1B visa category allows U.S. companies to employ foreign workers in “specialty occupation” positions that require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. As a result, the H-1B visa is commonly used for many engineering, technology, and other professional occupations. USCIS’s premium processing service guarantees a 15-day processing time on applicable petitions.
USCIS previously resumed premium processing for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program, as well as petitions filed by certain “cap-exempt” employers, such as higher education institutions or nonprofit research organizations. USCIS has not yet resumed premium processing for other H-1B petitions, such as extensions of stay or change of employer petitions for current H-1B visa beneficiaries. USCIS plans to resume premium processing for the remaining affected categories as agency workloads permit. While there is no guarantee how long that may take, petitioners still subject to the suspension may submit a request to expedite their application if they meet specific agency criteria, including situations such as severe financial loss to the company, an emergency situation, or for humanitarian reasons.
The Ogletree Deakins Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor and report on developments on this issue and other important immigration-related news as additional information becomes available.