Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

11 Broadway, Suite 615
New York, NY 10004

(212) 430-6582 phone
(212) 430-6583 facsimile

This Year’s H-1B Premium Processing Moratorium Extended and Expanded by USCIS

USCIS announced on August 28th that the suspension in premium processing services for this years’ H-1B cap cases, intended to last until September 10th, will not only be extended to February 19, 2019 for those cap-subject cases, but will also be extended to include non-cap-subject change of employer and amendment petitions. In fact, at least until February 19, of next year, there will be no H-1B premium processing services except for extensions of status with the same employer for the same person in the same job, and cap-exempt H-1B cases.

The stated reason for the expansion of the premium processing moratorium or hold is the need to reduce the backlog of non-premium processing cases USCIS’ earlier moratoriums on H-1B premium processing have been for the same stated reason, and have actually proven somewhat effective in accomplishing a reduction in processing time for non-premium processing H-1Bs.

However, while in the past the processing backlog USCIS sought to reduce was approaching a year in duration, right now the backlog is really only four to five months at the Vermont Service Center (at about eight months, the California Service Center had a longer backlog. The aspirational processing time for non-premium processing H-1B cases has historically been three months.

One wonders if there would be a better way to accomplish backlog reduction than this suspension of premium processing, such as an additional overtime allocation or transfer of cases to Service Centers with a smaller backlog. In fact, one might wonder if the stated goal of backlog reduction is in fact the real goal at all, as opposed to an additional effort to make the H-1B – a frequent political target of this administration – more difficult to use.

While the new/expanded suspension will go into effect on September 11, it won’t impact cases filed with a request for premium processing before that date. Similarly, this move doesn’t impact the availability of expedited processing – the ability to request faster processing without a fee for cases that meet certain specific criteria.