Premium Processing: Fee Increase and Expanded Suspension
As employers are well aware, premium processing is an optional service available for certain employment-based benefit requests which guarantees a response (not necessarily an approval) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) within 15 calendar days of USCIS’s receipt of a petition. In an effort to reduce overall H-1B processing times, USCIS recently announced important changes to the premium processing service, as summarized below:
- The premium processing fee is being increased from $1,225 to $1,410 beginning on October 1, 2018. The $185 increase represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010 and is consistent with the Consumer Price Index.
- The temporary suspension of the premium processing service for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B lottery petitions, which was originally anticipated to last until September 10, 2018, is being extended through an estimated date of February 19, 2019. Please note that unless and until the petition is approved, the foreign national cannot commence working for the petitioning employer in H-1B status. An employer that intends to employ or continue to employ the foreign national on or after the requested October 1, 2018 start date must verify that the foreign national is otherwise authorized to work if the H-1B petition remains pending at such time.
- Beginning on September 11, 2018, the premium processing service is being suspended for H-1B petitions requesting an amendment, change in previously approved employment, change of employer, or new concurrent employment though an estimated date of February 19, 2019.
Notably, the temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to H-1B petitions filed by the same employer requesting an extension of previously approved employment or to H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity, or organization. Nor does the temporary suspension apply to any other benefit request on Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.
While premium processing is suspended, employers may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the expedite criteria. These criteria are: severe financial loss to the company or person, an emergency situation, a humanitarian reason, a nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of U.S. cultural and social interests, a Department of Defense or national interest situation, a USCIS error, or a compelling interest of the USCIS.
If you have questions about the temporary suspension of premium processing, H-1B petitions, or other general questions about employment-based immigration, please contact one of the immigration specialists in Koley Jessen’s Employment, Labor and Benefits Practice Group.