On Friday, March 20, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the temporary suspension of premium processing for all I-129 and I-140 petitions due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Full announcement available on the USCIS website.
Some of the immediate impacts are as follows:
- Effective immediately, USCIS will not accept any new requests for Premium Processing.
- Petitions previously filed with USCIS with Form I-907 for Premium Processing service *and* receipted *should* be processed.
- ALL H-1B cases filed on or after March 20th will be subject to regular processing by USCIS.
- USCIS is presently working on H-1B cases submitted under regular processing that were received on or before November 21, 2019.
- Any individuals inside the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status that is nearing expiration (such as F-1 students with Optional Practical Training or J-1 Exchange Visitor status), will be unable to work after their current immigration status/work authorization expires. They will be unable to return to work until the H-1B petition is approved by USCIS and OIS is in receipt of the H-1B approval notice. It will be impossible to predict and manage these employment gap periods. However, their right to remain in the U.S. is preserved as long as the H-1B petition is pending at USCIS before their current status or grace period expires.
- New hires who are presently abroad will have longer periods that they must wait until the H-1B petition is approved in order to secure the H-1B visa stamp to enter the U.S.
- Individuals already in H-1B status within 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.
- Departments will 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.
The OIS will continue to process all H-1B requests in progress and file those cases under regular processing during the suspension period. We will monitor all pending petitions as closely as possible but cannot make reliable estimates for adjudications under regular processing. As soon as the premium processing suspension is lifted and in consultation with sponsoring departments, OIS will submit premium processing requests for cases pending at USCIS. In very limited circumstances, USCIS may consider a request for expedited service. Expedite requests should be submitted by the I-129 petitioner [i.e. the H-1B advisor who filed the case], so individuals and Department should consult OIS about a request to expedite.