Employers should adjust hiring time frames when preparing to onboard H-1B employees. The suspension of the premium H-1B processing means that employers should factor in normal petition and approval time (2-6+ months), particularly if they are considering a time-sensitive hire.
What does this extension & suspension mean?
The United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer accept initial petitions for premium H-1B visa processing as of September 11th, 2018. This will apply to most of the H-1B visa petitions that are filed at the California and Vermont Service Centers.
The California and Vermont Service Centers are responsible for initial petitions for a nonimmigrant worker (H-1B specialty occupation).
When does it take effect?
The expansion and extension of the current policy took effect on September 11, 2018 and is currently slated to remain in place until February 19, 2019.
What is a “premium” H-1B petition?
A premium H-1B petition is a way for an employer to pay an extra premium processing fee to the USCIS to have the H-1B decision within 15 calendar days.
As an employer, what does this mean?
Employers who are willing to sponsor an H-1B applicant after September 11, 2018, will not be allowed (in most cases) to file a premium H-1B visa petition to expedite the process. Potential employees who require the H-1B visa through the employer will be required to submit their H-1B petition through regular processing.
What if I have an H-1B employee and they need to change their status or extend their visa?
Services will still be available to employers for status changes and extensions of current nonimmigrant H-1B visas. The suspension of the H-1B premium petitions only applies to those who are beginning a new petition process.
How long does the USCIS take to process a “regular” petition?
Every situation is unique. Average processing times can vary between 2 and 6 months, but it could be longer.
Does the expansion and suspension of H-1B premium petitions affect me if I don’t reside in California or Vermont?
Yes. Only the California and Vermont Service Centers process these types of initial H-1B visa petitions.
Are any employers exempt from this policy?
Yes. Cap-exempt employers, typically higher education institutions or non-profit organizations associated with a higher education institution are excluded from this policy.
Can an employer make an expedited request during the time that premium processing isn’t available?
Yes. They can make expedited requests but the USCIS will generally not approve the request unless there is a compelling reason, backed by supporting evidence.
To find out more information about your specific situation, please visit the USCIS website.