On Friday, June 23, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that premium processing for H-1B petitions — which the agency suspended for all such petitions beginning April 3, 2017 — will be brought back for a limited type of H-1B cases. Starting Monday, June 26, USCIS will resume premium processing for all H-1B petitions filed for medical doctors under the Conrad 30 Waiver program and for cases in which a waiver has been granted by an interested government agency.
As outlined in our earlier update announcing the suspension of premium processing, USCIS suspended premium processing for ALL H-1B petitions starting on April 3. In its initial announcement, USCIS indicated that it could suspend premium processing for up to six months so that the government could decrease the current backlog and processing times of all H-1B petitions. With premium processing, USCIS will process (approve, deny or send a request for additional evidence) petitions within 15 calendar days for an extra filing fee of $1225.
Premium Processing Resumption and the Conrad 30 Waiver Program
H-1B premium processing will resume only for physicians under the Conrad 30 Waiver program and those who have received interested government agency waivers. The Conrad 30 program allows certain physicians to remain in the U.S. upon completion of their medical training, where they will work on H-1B status in rural and urban areas that have a shortage of physicians.
Bringing back premium processing for Conrad 30 and IGA waiver H-1B cases is welcome relief for these foreign physicians, as well as for the health care facilities and underserved patient populations served by H-1B physicians. Premium processing will allow H-1B physicians to start their employment on-time for the health care facilities who received physician waiver approvals. Even though this is a very limited group of H-1B petitions that can resume using premium processing, it is a good sign that USCIS could soon allow premium processing for other types of H-1B cases. In recent updates from the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office and the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, USCIS has indicated that premium processing will likely be brought back incrementally for other types of H-1B petitions (e.g., change of employer, cap-exempt, extensions) and that it may bring back premium processing for all H-1B cases in October.
Cases That Remain Affected by the Premium Processing Suspension
With this announcement, the suspension of premium processing continues to affect all other types of H-1B cases including:
- FY-2018 H-1B cap petition cases filed and received by USCIS from April 3-7, 2017
- H-1B extensions
- Amended H-1B petitions
- H-1B cap-exempt cases
- H-1B change of employer cases
Cases Not Affected by the Premium Processing Suspension
The suspension of premium processing continues to not affect other types of nonimmigrant work visa and immigrant visa petitions including:
- Form I-129: E-1, E-2, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, Blanket L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-Canada, TN-Mexico
- Form I-140: EB-1 extraordinary ability, EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers, EB-2 advanced degree professionals (not national interest waiver), EB-3 professionals, EB-3 skilled workers, EB-3 other workers
For more information about USCIS premium processing, review the USCIS' guide to using the premium processing service and the request form.
Requests to Expedite H-1B Petitions
While premium processing is formally suspended, USCIS will allow expedited processing of an H-1B petition under standard expedite request criteria. USCIS may expedite adjudications if the petitioner is able to demonstrate they meet one of the following criteria:
- Severe financial loss to company or person
- Emergency situation
- Humanitarian reasons
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States
- Department of Defense or national interest situation (these expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and demonstrate that delay will be detrimental to the government)
- USCIS error
- Compelling interest of USCIS
Adjudications for these requests are at the discretion of the reviewing officer and will be made on a case-by-case basis. USCIS has encouraged petitioners who pursue this option to submit documentary evidence with their request. Please stay tuned for further updates as USCIS starts to bring back premium processing for other types of H-1B cases.