Premium Processing is Back for H-1B Cap Petitions

Erick Widman

Finally we have some good news to share on H-1B visas.  The USCIS just announced that it will resume premium processing service for all FY2019 H-1B cap petitions, both regular and U.S. Master’s cap.  This means that H-1B employers subject to the annual cap who filed their petitions in April of 2018 and who are still waiting for the USCIS adjudication may now request for an “upgrade” to premium processing.

Once the USCIS receives the petitioner’s premium processing request with the required $1,410 additional filing fee, the USCIS guarantees a processing time of 15 calendar days.  If the USCIS fails to take action within 15 days, they will refund the $1,410 premium processing fee. Premium processing does not, however, guarantee that the petition will be approved within 15 days.  It is also possible that the USCIS will issue a request for additional evidence (RFE) instead of a final decision before the 15 days processing time period. The petitioner will get the usual 60 days to respond to the RFE, and once the USCIS receives the petitioner’s response, it will give a decision within the 15 days time limit.

It is important to note that this new announcement only applies to the FY2019 H-1B cap petitions.  The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B cases remain in place for all other cases.  According to the USCIS’s previous announcement, petitioners cannot request premium processing for all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers except for (1) cap-exempt petitions from a qualifying cap exempt organization that are filed exclusively at the California Service Center and (2) petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer.  Therefore, despite this new announcement, certain H-1B petitions such as amendment request and change of employer requests, may not request for premium processing service. Also, unless the USCIS indicates otherwise through another update before April 1, petitioners filing for H-1B cap cases this year for FY2020 still cannot request for premium processing service.

Below a summary of H-1B petitions eligible for premium processing as of January 30, 2019, per each USCIS service center.

California Service Center Vermont Service Center Nebraska Service Center
H-1B Regular cap (FY2019) YES YES N/A
H-1B Master cap (FY2019) YES YES N/A
H-1B Cap exempt organization YES N/A N/A
H-1B Change of employer NO NO N/A
H-1B Amendment NO NO N/A
H-1B Extension (no change) N/A N/A YES
H-1B Extension with changes NO NO N/A

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