On Friday, March 3, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a suspension of premium processing for all H-1B temporary worker petitions not filed prior to April 3. All such cases must actually be RECEIVED at USCIS by Friday, March 31.
The impacts are as follows:
- ALL H-1B cases filed after April 3 will be subject to regular processing by USCIS. Backlogs for regular processing cases are currently 8-10 months or more. Further, there is no guarantee that USCIS will honor all premium processing requests submitted between now and April 3.
- Medical Residents and Fellows who are participating in the match (announced on March 17) and who require H-1B sponsorship will have less than two weeks for an employer to file an H-1B petition under premium processing in an attempt to ensure they can start on 7/1/17. Departments must thus be ready to act immediately on March 17 and submit such H-1B requests to OIS with all required documentation to have any chance of filing such petitions before the premium processing suspension takes effect. NOTE: Most individuals in this group are sponsored under the J-1 ECFMG program and will not be impacted by the H-1B premium processing suspension.
- Any individuals inside the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status (such as F-1 with Optional Practical Training) who require a change of status to H-1B are unable to work after their current immigration status/work authorization expires and until the H-1B petition is approved by USCIS. The premium processing suspension will make it far more difficult to predict and manage these employment gap periods. Ability to travel abroad and return to the U.S. while a case is pending will also be impacted.
- New hires abroad will have longer periods that they must wait abroad until the H-1B petition is approved in order to secure the H-1B visa stamp to enter the U.S.
- Many faculty and others in H-1B status who travel extensively will be forced to cancel planned international travel after their current H-1B petition approval expires and while requests for H-1B extensions or amendments are pending USCIS approval. While there is a "240-day" rule that allows for continued employment with the same employer for up to 240 days after the current H-1B expires as long as a timely-filed extension is pending, that has become a problem due to backlogs, so please do not count on this cushion being adequate. To mitigate this, incorporate routines to request H-1B extensions up to six months before the current H-1B petition expiration date, the earliest extension requests may commence.
- Individuals already in H-1B status somewhere in the U.S. who are sponsored by JHU will, in most cases, be able to begin employment at JHU under H-1B portability rules once USCIS has received a timely-filed JHU H-1B petition. Ability to travel abroad may be impacted, however.
- Departments will obviously need to explore contingencies for individuals who are forced to wait for regular processing of their H-1B petitions. Teaching loads, course offerings, rotations, and research projects are just some staffing needs that will likely be impacted.
OIS will file all eligible, currently pending departmental H-1B requests that have been submitted to OIS with all required documentation (including the USCIS premium processing fee) with USCIS before April 3. This requires that all such cases be RECEIVED at USCIS by Friday, March 31.
OIS will make every effort to submit to USCIS any new department requests submitted with all required documentation to OIS between now and that deadline. However, we can make no guarantees for successfully filing any such petitions with USCIS before Friday, March 31 due to the preliminary processing steps required both within OIS and with the Department of Labor (DOL) that must occur prior to filing petitions with USCIS. Note that higher demand on DOL services as a result of the premium processing suspension, along with the impending April 3 earliest filing date for FY18 cap-subject H-1B cases, could negatively impact the usual timing at DOL of these preliminary processing steps.
OIS will continue to process H-1B requests for regular processing at USCIS during the suspension period. For such future requests, OIS will explore alternative immigration options on a case-by-case basis.
OIS will monitor all pending petitions as closely as possible but cannot make reliable estimates for adjudications under regular processing. In consultation with sponsoring departments, OIS will submit premium processing requests for cases pending at USCIS as soon as the premium processing suspension is lifted.