U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on

August 28, 2018, that it is extending the previously announced

temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B

petitions and, beginning September 11, 2018, will expand this

temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions.

USCIS said it estimates that these suspensions will last until

February 19, 2019, and that it will notify the public via uscis.gov

before resuming premium processing for these petitions. The

previously announced suspension of premium processing for fiscal

year 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions was originally slated to last

until September 10, 2018. USCIS also said it is raising the premium

processing fee.

Suspension extended, expanded. USCIS said the

suspension will help the agency to reduce overall H-1B processing

times by allowing it to:

  • Process long-pending petitions, which

    USCIS has been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming

    petitions and premium processing requests over the past few

    months;

  • Be responsive to petitions with

    time-sensitive start dates; and

  • Prioritize adjudication of H-1B

    extension-of-status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

According to reports from employers, an increasing number of

employees were insisting on premium processing for petitions due to

the increase in denials and requests for evidence (RFEs), as well

as USCIS’s “no deference” policy, assertion of

its ability to deny cases without RFEs, and its recent initiative

to start removal proceedings upon denial of nonimmigrant

petitions.

While H-1B premium processing is suspended, USCIS will reject

any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with

an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If a

petitioner submits one combined check for the Form I-907 and Form I

129 H-1B fees, both forms will be rejected. The expanded temporary

suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and

California Service Centers (excluding cap-exempt filings as noted

below).

USCIS said it will continue premium processing of Form I-129

H-1B petitions that are not currently suspended if the petitioner

properly filed an associated Form I-907 before September 11, 2018.

Therefore, USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • The petitioner filed the Form I-907

    for an H-1B petition before September 11, 2018; and

  • USCIS did not take adjudicative

    action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing

    period.

The suspension does not apply to:

  1. Cap-exempt petitions that are filed

    exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer

    is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a

    qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity, or organization; or

  2. Petitions filed exclusively at the

    Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a

    “Continuation of previously approved employment without

    change with the same employer” (Box b. on Part 2, question 2,

    page 2 of the current Form I-129) with a concurrent request to:

    1. Notify the office in Part 4 so each

      beneficiary can obtain a visa or be admitted. (Box on Part 2,

      question 4, page 2 of the current Form I-129); or

    2. Extend the stay of each beneficiary

      because the beneficiary now holds this status. (Box c. on Part 2,

      question 4, page 2 of the current Form I-129).

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply

to any other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129,

USCIS said.

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a

request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on

the Expedite Criteria webpage. The petitioner must demonstrate that

he or she meets at least one of the expedite criteria, and

petitioners should be prepared to submit documentary evidence to

support their expedite requests.

USCIS said it reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case

basis and that requests are granted “at the discretion of the

office leadership.”

The announcement is at https://www.uscis.gov/news/uscis-extends-and-expands-suspension-premium-processing-h-1b-petitions-reduce-delays.

Increased fee for premium processing. USCIS

announced on August 31, 2018, that it is raising the premium

processing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, beginning on

October 1, 2018. The premium processing fee will increase to

$1,410, a 14.9 percent increase from the current fee of $1,225.

This increase “represents the percentage change in inflation

since the fee was last increased in 2010 based on the Consumer

Price Index for all Urban Consumers,” USCIS said.

Premium processing is an optional service that allows

petitioners to request 15-day processing of certain

employment-based immigration benefit requests if they pay an extra

fee. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base

filing fee and any other applicable fees, which cannot be

waived.

USCIS said it intends to hire additional staff and invest in

information technology systems with the funds generated by the fee

increase.

The USCIS announcement is at https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-adjusting-premium-processing-fee.

The related Federal Register final rule is at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/08/31/2018-19108/adjustment-to-premium-processing-fee.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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