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Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions


Screen Shot of H-1B web portalOn Friday, March 3, 2017, USCIS announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing service for H-1B petitions as of April 3, 2017. This will affect any petition filed on or after April 3, 2017. This cutoff date means that none of this year’s cap-subject H-1B petitions will be eligible for premium processing service since April 3, 2017 is the earliest those petitions can be received by USCIS this year. The suspension also affects every other kind of H-1B petition, including both cap-subject and cap-except petitions, as well as initial petitions, extensions of status, and portability cases.

 

Premium processing is a service that USCIS offers to expedite a limited selection of petitions, including most I-129 petitions and I-140 petitions. Premium Processing requires a filing fee of $1,225. If a petition is submitted with a Request for Premium Processing, USCIS agrees to complete processing – which means either rendering a decision or requesting additional evidence – within 15 calendar days of receipt. This is significantly faster than ‘regular’ processing, for which total processing time can range from 3 months all the way up to a year.

There are very limited exceptions to the suspension, and they can only be granted with USCIS discretion. These exceptions were in place prior to the Premium Processing suspension where an employer may have wanted to request expedited processing without paying the Premium Processing fee. In order to be eligible for the exception, at least one of the following criteria need to be proved:

1. Severe financial loss to company or person;
2. Emergency situation
3. Humanitarian reasons
4. Employer is a nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States.
5. Department of Defense or national interest situation (with the request coming from a U.S. government entity)
6. USCIS error



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