The Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on Tuesday that the temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions will be extended until February 19, 2019.

On March this year, USCIS announced that the Trump administration had temporarily suspended premium processing for the Fiscal Year 2019 cap-subject petitions, until September 10, 2018. The suspension came into force on the same day that USCIS started accepting H-1B visa applications, on April 2.

The premium processing is an option that permits certain petitioners to pay an extra fee of $1,225 for USCIS to take action on their petition within 15 calendar days of filing.

Now the suspension has been extended to February 19, 2019. Such decision has been taken to reduce the overall H-1B processing times. The decision is supposed to create more time for the USCIS staff to process more long-pending petitions and to become responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start date. According to a press release, it also allows them to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

Throughout the time that the H-1B premium processing is suspended, USCIS will not accept any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service filed with an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

“We will continue premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions that are not currently suspended if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before Sept. 11, 2018. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if: the petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before Sept. 11, 2018; and we did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period,” the press release published on the website of USCIS reads.

However, the Premium Processing remains available for certain H-1B petitions, which are not subject to the suspension, as following:

  • Cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively at the California Service Center because:
    • the employer is cap exempt or
    • the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization
  • Petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer”

H-1B petitioners can still request an expedited processing, if they meet at least one of the expedition criteria. These criteria must be supported by documentary evidence upon the expedition request.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which permits technology companies in the US to hire foreign workers in specialty occupation. The H1B visa program, gives the opportunity to foreigners of areas, which require specialized knowledge to come to the United States and fill available jobs. It has been popular especially among Indians, who have been awarded with more than 70% of H1B visas.

However, the US administration has been attempting to make changes to this visa ever since Donald Trump became president. A few actions to tighten H-1B visa rules have been taken so far.

Only last week, the USCIS director Lee Francis Cissna said that he would be happy if there was a law in the US, that prohibited H-1B visa holders from taking jobs that could be filled by Americans.

On the meantime, some of the biggest US companies in technology like Microsoft and Facebook have protested these changes. Recently, the President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft Brad Smith, claimed that if the widely-discussed warned changes for the H-1B visa and H-4 visa come into force, Microsoft could move some of the jobs abroad.

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