In a late-breaking and unwelcome announcement Friday, USCIS suspended premium processing service for all H-1B applications, effective April 3, 2017. The premium processing suspension does not impact other nonimmigrant visa categories such as L-1, O-1, or E visas. The suspension also does not impact other application types eligible for premium processing, such as I-140 petitions. USCIS exercised its discretion to suspend premium processing for H-1B applications, stating that the move was necessary to achieve its overall goal to reduce H-1B processing times.
Yesterday’s announcement included a warning that H-1B premium processing may not resume for another 6 months. The last time USCIS suspended premium process for H-1B applications was in May 2015 and that suspension lasted two months. So, it is possible that the present premium processing suspension may end sooner than six months.
Clients expected to be significantly impacted include those who require an H-1B change of status application approval prior to starting employment (including J-1 waiver physicians and new resident physicians starting GME programs) and those who require an H-1B approval notice for international travel or for extending a driver's license.
While the premium processing suspension is in effect, USCIS stated that it will consider discretionary H-1B expedite requests on a case-by-case basis if they meet the USCIS expedite criteria.
Individuals with upcoming employment start dates within the next 6 months that require an H-1B change of status approval, as well as those with international travel needs or expiring driver's licenses within the next 6 months, are encouraged to consult with Ellis Porter to determine their eligibility to file a premium processing request prior to April 3rd.