USCIS Extends Suspension of H-1B Premium Processing and Increases Premium Processing Filing Fee
On August 29, 2018, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that its suspension of Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions will be extended to February 19, 2019. Originally, the suspension was meant to end in early September. Now, starting on September 11, 2018, the USCIS will not accept Premium Processing for an H-1B Petition unless the filing is statutorily cap-exempt or if the Petition requests a continuation of previously-approved employment without change – whether the employee is present in the United States and seeking an extension of stay, or if they are presently outside the United States and will need to apply for a Visa to return. For all other H-1B Petitions, (e.g. Amended H-1B Petitions, H-1B Portability Petitions and new employment for H-1B employees abroad), Premium Processing will not be available until at least February 19, 2019.
The USCIS cited several reasons for its decision to extend and expand its suspension of H-1B Premium Processing, all of which are nothing new: a back-log of pending petitions due to an increase of Premium Processing requests, as well as the need to process H-1B Extension Petitions which are approaching their 240-day limit as well as other H-1B Petitions with “time-sensitive start dates.” These reasons conflict with the fact that H-1B Cap Petitions, many of which are currently pending, also have “time-sensitive start dates” of October 1, 2018, yet will not have access to Premium Processing. Also, the extension correlates with the USCIS’ implementation of its July 13, 2018 Policy Memorandum (PM) 602-0050.1 which allows the USCIS greater latitude to deny any application, petition or request for an immigrant or nonimmigrant benefit – such as H-1B – without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). With the extended suspension, the USCIS will also have more time to decide these cases.
On August 31, 2018, the USCIS released a Final Rule increasing Premium Processing fees from $1,225.00 to $1,410.00 effective September 30, 2018. The Premium Processing fee was last increased in 2010 and therefore the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is increasing the fee based on inflation. The USCIS intends to use the premium funds that are generated by the fee increase to provide certain premium processing services to business customers, and to make infrastructure improvements in the adjudications and customer-service processes. In recent years, premium processing has been suspended on employment-based petitions to permit officers working on premium processing cases to process long-pending nonpremium filed petitions as well as to prevent a lapse in employment authorization for beneficiaries of extension petitions resulting from the high volume of incoming petitions and a significant surge in premium processing requests. DHS estimates an additional $44 million in revenue to be collected from the increase in premium processing fees due to adjustment of inflation.
Number of Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing) Received Annually