H1B Visa Premium Processing is suspended for up to 6 months by USCIS starting April 3, 2017. Let me highlight the following:
Only Premium Processing for H1B Visa is suspended. This is not the suspension of H1B Visa program.
1. What is Premium Processing?
By paying additional $1225 fee, H1B Visa applicants can request processing of petitions within 15 days of application. With premium processing, applicants can know if their petition is approved or denied or additional query is required within 15 days from the day USCIS receives the application.
2. How long does Regular Processing Take?
Regular processing of H1B Visa can take upto 10 month as per Processing Time posted in for USCIS Service centers.
3. Why USCIS Suspending Premium Processing?
Here primary reasons for suspending Premium Processing as reported by USCIS.
- Process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years; and
- Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240 day mark.
4. How is this going to impact upcoming H1B Visa 2018 applications?
Employers and their Immigration attorney’s are going to apply for H1B Visa as they would apply previous years, but without Premium Processing request.
Now, you know the premise, let move on for detailed analysis.
Let me answer the impact if H1B Visa Premium Processing suspension for following situations
- H1B Visa Extension
- H1b Visa Transfer to New Employer
- First Time H1B Visa Applicants
- OPT-Cap Gap
Before I can get into specific scenarios, I have to give you the background, as some readers are may not understand the situation surrounding this H1B Visa Premium Processing Suspension.
Current H1B Visa Processing Time
H1B Visa Processing time as of Mar 2017
Current H1B Processing Times at California Service Center
- H1B Visa Extension – 8 Months (July 2, 3016)
- Change of Status – 8 Months
- Applicants from Outside USA – 8 months
Current H1B Processing Times at Vermont Service Center
- H1B Visa Extension – 03/07/2016
- Change of Status – 04/11/2016
- Applicants from Outside USA – 04/11/2016
H1B Visa Processing time as of Jan 2017
Current Processing Times at California Service Center
- H1B Visa Extension – 805/16/2016
- Change of Status -05/16/2016
- Applicants from Outside USA -05/16/2016
Current Processing Times at Vermont Service Center
- H1B Visa Extension – 12/07/2015 << Over 1 Year
- Change of Status – 04/11/2016
- Applicants from Outside USA -04/11/2016
H1B Visa Premium Processing Suspended
There was a court ruling (June 2015) that required new H1B amendment to change in job location. Previously to that ruling, only new LCA was required. After the ruling, LCA, along with the H1B Visa amendment was required.
Now, think about a contractor, who moves to the new project at new client. The employer has to file LCA and H1B amendment for new location. That could have caused a dramatic increase in USCIS Service center workload.
- More workload = Delays in Processing Time
Due to the lengthy processing time for H1B Visa Extension and New applications, employer’s were forced to upgrade to Premium Processing, so employee can continue to work or start working on H1B.
Wait a minute? Why would someone have to upgrade to Premium? Can’t someone with pending H1B Visa extension application continue to work? The answer is Yes and No.
Take this example:
John’s 3 years H1B visa is about to expire in April. So, the employer applies for H1B Visa extension to get 3 more years of Approval in the month of March via Regular Processing. As per USCIS guidelines, the employee can continue to work for up to 240 days while application is pending.
Now, look at the processing time posted above, for Jan, 2017 – H1B Visa processing time for Extension in VSC is over 12 months.
An employee can work for 8 months while H1B Visa extension application is pending, but they can’t work beyond 8 months. So, the only way for an employee to continue to work is by upgrading to Premium Processing to get H1B Visa approval before the 240 days limit.
In FY 2016 about 569,000 LCA was certified. Which means, USCIS would have processed close to the same number of H1B applications.
Those who want to continue to work beyond 240 days were upgrading to Premium Processing. Pretty much all H1B Extension application would be upgraded to Premium Processing (my assumption).
Can you imagine the workload for USCIS to process the H1B Visa in Premium Processing?
By, suspending Premium Processing for applications H1B Visa Applications, they can clear the pending backlogs.
Impact of H1B Visa Premium Processing Suspension?
Let’s look at few scenarios where this latest news from USCIS would have an impact.
- H1B Visa Transfer Application – Minimal
- Drivers License Renewal – Medium to High
- OPT Cap Gap – Medium
- H1B Visa Extension – Medium
- Change of Status to H1B form F1 (with Travel Plans) – Could be Expensive.
- H4 EAD Application with H1B Extension
H1B Visa Transfer
Here’s a question from Sam about H1B Visa Transfer and suspension of H1B Visa Premium Processing:
I’m planning to apply for H1B Transfer. Now, if I apply H1B transfer after 3rd April. I can work with new employer with confirmation receipt before approval. What if I got rejection in H1B transfer later? What are H1B transfer rejection rate? I have US education degree. As well, both my employers (current and future) are top companies (has good reputation).
In my case, Do you think going for normal processing will be good enough or it’s always better to go for premium processing in case of H1B Transfer.
Yes, you can work for new employer right after applying for H1B Visa transfer. But, without Premium processing, we don’t know how long it would take for USCIS to approve the petition. But, they said, they will prioritize the adjudication of H1B application nearing 240 days. If your new employer has questionable history, then reconsider H1B Visa transfer.
You would have to discuss this option with an attorney to figure out what are the chances of RFE or Rejection. Then make a move. You don’t have the luxury of changing after H1B is approved for 6 months or so.
Impact on OPT Cap Gap
My opt extension is ending 15th May. I would have fallen under opt cap gap and continued working till Sept end on Opt and started H1 from 1st Oct if my h1 would have been picked after doing premium filing. Now that there’s no premium what are my options ?
If your OPT or STEM OPT is going to expire between April and September, and if you have applied for H1B in timely manner, then Cap-Gap provision would come into effect automatically, but you are required to inform your DSO and get new Cap-Gap I-2o
And you can continue to work until Sep 30. After Sep 30, you would have to stop working, but remain in the USA based on pending H1B Visa application. Once H1B is approved, then you can continue to work. If your H1B application is denied or withdrawn, then you would have 60 days grace period. Refer to this guide for additional OPT Cap Gap Details.
Now, H1B Visa premium processing is under suspension (from Apr 3, 2017), you have to wait for H1B approval beyond Oct 1, 2017. But, USCIS stated the following in the press release:
So, I’m guessing, from April to August, USCIS would try to clear the existing backlogs of H1B Visa petitions. Then focus on processing and approving and approving H1B Visa 2018 petitions.
But, because of H1B Visa Premium Procession suspension for upto 6 months, you can still continue to apply for H1B Visa. Only things is that H1B Visa Approval result will be delayed.
Keep them coming in the comments section below.