U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that beginning April 2, it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2019 cap. The agency will temporarily suspend premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, though, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. USCIS expects the suspension to last until September 10, 2018, during which time the agency will continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the FY 2019 cap. The suspension is aimed at helping the agency reduce overall H-1B processing times, among other things.
The H-1B program permits companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations requiring the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include jobs in the fields of science, engineering, and information technology.
Petitions rejected. During the temporary suspension, USCIS will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, filed with an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition. Where petitioners submit one combined check for the fees for Form I-907 and Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, the agency will reject both forms. When USCIS resumes premium processing, petitioners may file a Form I-907 for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions that remain pending.
Requesting expedited processing. USCIS said that during the suspension of premium processing, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petition, provided it meets the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. Petitioners must demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria; the agency encourages petitioners to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request. Expedite requests are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with requests granted at the discretion of USCIS office leadership.
Reasons for suspension. According to USCIS, the temporary suspension will help the agency reduce overall H-1B processing times. By temporarily suspending premium processing, USCIS will be able to process long-pending petitions, which it has currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years. The temporary suspension will also permit the agency to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.
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