The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced today the reinstatement of premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap.  USCIS previously reinstated premium processing for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of Conrad 30 waivers recipients and those filed by certain H-1B cap-exempt petitioners.

 USCIS expects to resume premium processing as workload permits, but previously announced a target date of October 3, 2017.

 

The USCIS announced on June 23, 2017, that it will reintroduce Premium Processing for H-1B petitions.  USCIS suspended this program for all H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017.  The reintroduction will be done incrementally, beginning today with H-1Bs filed under the Conrad 30 Waiver program for medical doctors working in underserved areas.   As the USCIS evaluates its workload, it will notify stakeholders when other H-1B petitions can be filed under (or, if already pending, upgraded to) Premium Processing.  Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations, advised the attendees at the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s annual conference of Friday that 2-3 days of notice will be given for each new incremental restoration.  We will update this blog as we learn more information about this process.

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.

The USCIS received 199,000 petitions for the FY-2018 H-1B visas that will become available on October 1, 2017.  The lottery was held on April 11, 2017, for both the master’s cap cases (20,000 H-1B visas) and the regular cap cases (65,000 H-1B visas).  The USCIS is in the process of sending receipt notices by regular mail to those whose petitions were selected in the lottery.  We expect that the process to mail all of the notices will take several weeks to complete.  Petitions that were not selected in the lottery will be returned (with the uncashed filing fee checks) over the next few months.

Not surprisingly, the USCIS announced today that the FY2018 H-1B cap has been met.  The USCIS will hold a lottery for the H-1B visas as early as next week.  Those selected will receive receipt notices in the mail; those rejected will have their filings returned, along with the filing fee checks.   We expect that the receipt notices for those selected will begin to trickle in later this month through most of May; the rejected petitions will take longer to return.  The USCIS has not yet released the number of petitions it received.  Please check back for updates.

On, March 31, 2017, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services rescinded a 17-year-old memorandum issued by the Nebraska Service Center regarding computer-related positions as H-1B “specialty occupations.”  For the last 10 years, all H-1B petitions have been processed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, so the memo has not been in use.  Since NSC recently began accepting H-1B extension petitions again, USCIS has rescinded the memo, stating it is outdated and inconsistent with the agency’s current approach to H-1B petitions for computer jobs.

Continue Reading USCIS Rescinds Old Guidance on H-1B Computer Programmers and Announces Targeted Scrutiny of IT Contractors

Due to the upcoming temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017, USCIS has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of premium processing cases it has received.  The Nebraska Service Center, which processes all H-1B extension petitions for non-cap exempt employers containing no changes to the beneficiary’s terms of employment, has announced that it will focus its resources on processing H-1B petitions in accordance with premium processing requirements.

Continue Reading USCIS’s Nebraska Service Center Announces Delays In Adjudication of H-4 and H-4 EAD Applications Concurrently Filed with Premium H-1B Petitions

On Friday, March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing service will be suspended for all H-1B petitions received on or after April 3, 2017. This suspension may remain in place for up to 6 months.
Continue Reading USCIS To Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions