H1B Premium Processing

H1B Premium Processing is an excellent for when an employer wants to get an H-1B visa granted for an employee as soon as possible. Although these petitions are costly, they can greatly expedite the process.

Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

It can take up to 10 months to process a petition for an H-1B Visa. However, employers can request “premium processing” for these petitions that greatly expedite the process. Petitions filed where premium processing has been granted must be considered within 15 days. Sponsoring an employee to attain an H-1B Visa costs employers several thousand dollars, and premium processing of a petition currently costs employers an additional $1,2225.

There has been a huge uptick in the number of premium processing requests over the past several years. For this reason, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that beginning in April of 2017 they will not be accepting premium processing requests for a period of six months. USCIS will not begin accepting premium processing requests again until after October of 2017.

Current H-1B Processing Times as of March 2017

Currently, H-1B processing times are averaging about 8 months, however the processing time can vary based on what service center are being used. Applicants from outside of the United States typically wait longer.

Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

The suspension of premium processing is intended to reduce the overall processing times for all H-1B visa petitions. It is not yet clear how successful this has been, or what the target processing time for regular H-1B petitions are. USCIS has suspended premium processing in the past, and these suspensions have not typically lasted more than a few months. USCIS handles H-1B petitions on a first-come basis.

Who is Affected by the USCIS Suspension?

Employers relying on foreign labor, and non-citizens seeking to work in the United States, are affected by the USCIS suspension. Employers most affected are those that need work done immediately. Nonetheless, employers and immigration attorneys are continuing to apply for H-1B visas at a high rate despite the inability to have premium processing.  The precise H-1B visa rules differ based on the type of employment and the skills of the employee.

For existing employees that currently have an H-1B Visa, the suspension will not affect them when they need to renew their Visa. This is because when a petition to extend the length of an H-1B Visa is filed, an employee may continue working at their job until the extension request is adjudicated.

International Travel for H-1B Petitioners

Any employee working in the United States that has a pending H-1B petition should avoid international travel. This is because USCIS can consider a petition abandoned when an employee leaves the country. Employees should make sure that their H-1B Visa is valid before leaving the country to ensure that they can re-enter. If an employee holds a valid H-1B Visa, however, they are free to travel, including while an extension request is beginning considered.

Employers Hiring Foreign Workers

When hiring foreign workers, employers currently need to file a regular H-1B petition. However, once USCIS beings to accept premium processing requests, employers can upgrade their petition for the additional fee.

What Happens if You File Premium Processing after April 3, 2017?

Unfortunately, all petitions for premium processing filed after April 2, 2017 are being rejected.

What Visa Applications are Impacted?

The suspension on premium processing only impacts H-1B petition. The suspension does not apply to other types of visa applications.

Any Options for Expedited Processing for H1Bs?

There is the possibility of applying for expedited processing in certain situations. These include instances where the employer would suffer a severe and immediate loss if the employee can’t work, there is an emergency situation that requires specific work be done by the foreign employee, or for humanitarian reasons. If you request expedited processing from USCIS, you should provide documentation justifying your request.

H1B PP Reinstated for Physicians under Conrad 30 Waiver Program

An exception to the premium processing suspension was announced by USCIS in June, 2017. Under the Conrad 30 Waiver Program, physicians seeking H-1B status are exempted from the suspension and can file a request for premium processing.

Effects of H1B PP Suspension

According to the Trump Administration, reigning in H-1B Visas is an important step towards protecting American jobs. Many supporters of the original H-1B Visa program have previously expressed outrage that the program has been used to replace American labor with cheaper foreign options. The H-1B program continues to be something Trump considers important to reform and restrict. Because of the Trump agenda, those awaiting approval of an H-1B Visas should not travel abroad.

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