On March 20, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the temporary suspension of the premium processing program for all fiscal year (FY) 2019 cap-subject H-1B cases. The premium processing program allows a petitioner to pay an additional government filing fee to USCIS in return for a guarantee that the agency will issue a decision on the case within 15 calendar days. This suspension only impacts new H-1B quota cases filed for FY 2019. H-1B petitions that are exempt from the annual quota (such as extensions of stay, requests to amend existing H-1B status, and requests for changes of employer) can continue to be submitted with requests for expedited processing under the premium processing program. USCIS noted that the suspension is expected to last until September 10, 2018.
Due to the lengthy USCIS processing times for non-premium processed cases, this announcement—made just 10 days before the filing window for H-1B quota cases opens—may impact a variety of matters, including international travel and the renewal of driver’s licenses.
USCIS has stated that discretionary expedite criteria will be available for petitioners, though past experience indicates that the threshold for meeting that criteria is high. Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group is analyzing this development and will provide further guidance to employers regarding steps that can be taken to mitigate the impact of this suspension.