USCIS Extends Suspension of Premium Processing for ALL H-1B Cap, Transfers, and Amendments

The suspension of the premium processing for cap-subject H-1Bs last September 10, 2018 has been extended until February 19, 2019 by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This included the acceptance of premium processing for all H-1B transfers, amendments and extensions “with change” within the said dates.  Only H-1B extensions “without change” filed with the Nebraska Service Centre may be filed for premium processing.

Who are affected?

International students with a “cap-gap” status

The suspension will affect international students with a “cap-gap” status whose H-1B application has not been approved by October 1st.  Apparently, since the processing for their consequent filing for H-1B status is suspended. Holders of the F1 visa or international students attending an academic program or an English Language Program in any US educational institutions should take note of the 180-day limit on unlawful presence which culminates by February 4, 2019. Students who remained under cap gap status until after October 1 may be declared “unlawfully present” since their period of stay authorized by the Department of Homeland Security may be considered expired because unlawful Presence can be calculated retroactively from August 9, 2018.  This may result for them to be inadmissible for three years.


Workers under H-1B transfers

The suspension will also affect workers under H-1B transfers. Under the current conditions, processing time for H-1B transfers can take longer than six months.  Thus, such worker may potentially receive a notice of initiation for removal proceedings against you (NTA) in case of disapproval after I-94 expiration. As such, it is still advisable for H-1B worker applying for transfer to wait for its approval before actually switching to their new work.


H-1B petitions for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129)

The extended suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions also expands to certain H-1B petitions, which will apparently affect employers seeking to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, the USCIS will subsequently decline any request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907) for Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker (Form I-129).  Thus, non-immigrant workers seeking for petition for service or training should postpone their plans for the moment.


H-1B petitions filed after Sept. 10, 2018

The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centres. This means all applications for premium processing of pending H-1B petitions filed after Sept. 10, 2018 are suspended and subsequent applications will be rejected.


Who are exempted?

Cap-exempt petitions

Cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center are still eligible to file for premium processing.  This includes petitions from employers like higher educational institutions and its non-profit affiliates as well as non- profit and government research organizations


Petitions for H-1B extensions without change


These refers to petitions for continuation of formerly approved employment without change filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center.


Other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129

Premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions with appropriately filed Form I-907 before Sept. 11, 2018, will be continued.


Rationale for Suspension

According to the USCIS, the temporary suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions was placed in order to reduce the general H-1B processing times.

  • To provide USCIS ample time to process long-pending petitions. The agency has accumulated a large backlog due to high volume of received petitions and premium processing requests.
  • To allow agency to prioritize and provide faster response to petitions with time-sensitive start dates
  • To give precedence to resolution of H-1B extension of status cases in the verge of the 240-day expiration.

Son Nguyen – CEO/ Founder of Greenhandshake

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