Gone are the days of the 15 day wait period for H-1B petitions (both regular and master’s cap)…at least for now. On March 3, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective April 3, 2017, the USCIS will no longer accept premium processing for H-1B petitions. This means that for those employers waiting to file a new H1B for FY2018 that would normally pursue premium processing (because you know the regular track takes an inordinate amount of time), you will have to get in line with everyone else and wait. And wait. And wait.
According to the USCIS, this suspension is temporary, and does not apply to other nonimmigrant classifications that also use the Form I-129. Also, there are some exceptions to this suspension for several financial loss, emergency situations, humanitarian reasons, etc. – most of which will not apply to a normal business. For more information on the expedited criteria, click here. Unless you truly have a unique situation, I would not count on this exception.
Why is the USCIS temporarily suspending premium processing? It appears they are going to use their resources to work on processing long-pending petitions (with priority to extensions pending for around 240 days). Given the high volume of incoming petitions in the past few years, they have continually been running slow (this is an understatement…which is why I typically suggest to employers, if possible, to use premium processing).
So, what should employers do? Get any H-1B extensions filed NOW. Educate new H-1B beneficiaries about the timing of the process – and that there will be a wait if selected. For extensions that cannot be filed until after April 3, file it as soon as possible due to the long wait for the extension approval. And work with counsel to determine the best strategy for your situation.