March 2017 brought us a surprising suspension of the Premium Processing option for all H-1B petitions received by the USCIS on or after Monday, April 3, 2017, which led to an overwhelming number of H-1B extension filings in a short period of time. The USCIS was unable to process most of the cases within the 15-day period, leading to the return/refund the $1,225 filing fees. April 2017 brought us the H-1B cap petition lottery that, once again, demonstrated a high demand for H-1B visas by US companies. In addition, while these events were taking place, the President and members of his administration continued to spread negative messages about the H-1B program and its future. In light of these events, we report the following:
- H-1B petitions not selected in the lottery in April have started to arrive in the mail. While the USCIS should return the rejected petitions to the attorneys of record, some clients have reported receiving the rejected filings directly from the USCIS. Those filings should be forwarded to the attorneys so that the filing fee checks can be properly credited, and so that support documents can be maintained and reused next year.
- Attorneys are reporting an increase in requests for evidence (RFEs) for some H-1B positions relying on Level 1 prevailing wages, especially in the computer industry.
- Due to the large number of H-1B cap cases, extension petitions, and amended petitions, the USCIS has been moving H-1B filings to other USCIS Service Centers for adjudication assistance. This should help decrease processing times.
- Hot off the Presses: During the USCIS Ombudsman’s Teleconference on H-1B Petition Processing on 6/20/2017, representatives from that office indicated that Premium Processing would be reinstated “on an incremental basis”, but have not explained how this will work or when it will begin. They are being cautious given the rush of Premium Processing cases it received in March that exceeded processing capacity.
We will continue to provide updates on these and any other issues affecting the H-1B visa program, including any proposed legislation or policy changes.