Effective immediately, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is indefinitely suspending new premium processing requests for all petitions due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The USCIS has indicated that it will continue to process currently pending petitions filed with premium processing where the fee has been accepted. However, the agency indicated in its announcement that petitions that receive no action within the 15-day premium processing window will instead receive a refund. The suspension applies to all Form I-129 nonimmigrant and Form I-140 immigrant petitions, including all H-1B change of employer petitions, as well this year’s FY2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions. This announcement supersedes one made by the USCIS made just days ago on its two-phased plan for accepting premium processing requests for the H-1B cap.
What This Means for Our Clients
H-1B Cap Petitions. We will be reviewing all H-1B cap petitions for persons selected in the lottery and will advise if the suspension of premium processing may require a change in travel plans and/or cause complications in work authorization. At this time, no changes to the H-1B cap registration timeline have been announced by the USCIS. We still anticipate the USCIS running a lottery on the online registrations and notifying us of selected registrants by March 31st.
H-1B Change of Employer (“Transfer”) Petitions. In most cases involving change of employer H-1B petitions where the foreign worker is already employed in the U.S. in H-1B status, the worker may start at the new employer upon receiving the receipt notice for the H-1B petition filed by the new employer. Without premium processing, it generally takes 2-3 weeks to obtain this receipt notice. Where necessary, employers may request for expedited processing of affected H-1B petitions.
I-140 Petitions. I-140 petitions will now be filed under regular processing with the USCIS Texas Service Center. Current USCIS processing times are estimated at 4 to 6 months, however this is subject to change. It is likely that the processing times of concurrently filed green card applications will be delayed as a result.
Where necessary, we will also assist clients with an "expedite request" in lieu of premium processing service. Expedited processing is a discretionary service, and requires a showing that one of the following criteria is met:
Severe financial loss to a company or person;
Urgent humanitarian reasons;
Compelling U.S. government interests (such as urgent cases for the Department of Defense or DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
Clear USCIS error.
It is likely that the Service will be inundated with such requests and response times to requests may be delayed. Please note that the grant of expedited processing is to the discretion of the adjudicating officer and is not a guarantee.
Once the temporary suspension has been lifted, we will notify our clients of all pending petitions that are eligible for premium processing upgrades.