Information on Premium Processing for FY2020 H-1B cap cases

Premium processing will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season so USCIS can best manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as in previous years. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.

 

Update on Rule Eliminating H-4 Dependent Employment Authorization

The rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on February 20, 2019, and is currently pending review. Once OMB completes its review, a notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register and will be open to the public for notice and comment. The proposed regulation will not take effect until finalized by DHS, a process that typically takes several months.
Please note that the text of the proposed rule has not yet been made available to the public.

UPDATE ON ADVANCE PAROLE DENIALS DUE TO INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

USCIS recently updated its website with information regarding the agency’s practice of denying pending Form I-131 advance parole applications for abandonment due to international travel. Specifically, USCIS indicates on its website that if an applicant files Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to request an advance parole document and departs the United States without possession of an advance parole document that is valid for the entire time the applicant is abroad, USCIS will consider the pending Form I-131 to be abandoned.

Recap: If you currently have a valid Advance Parole document while an application for a new advance parole document is pending at USCIS, international travel will not result in a denial of the pending application.  This only applies if you are returning to the U.S. with an advance parole document.  This does not apply if you need to return to the U.S. using a nonimmigrant visa.

USCIS Using Tablets to Administer the English Reading and Writing Tests for Naturalization

On Oct. 1, USCIS began using digital tablets to administer the English reading and writing tests during naturalization interviews as part of the agency’s ongoing business modernization efforts. Although USCIS applicants already use digital tablets to sign or verify parts of their applications, this new approach expands tablet usage, allowing the device to be used for a greater portion of the application process. USCIS will be able to continue using the paper process on a case-by-case basis. While the eligibility requirements and the subject material of the naturalization test have not changed, applicants are now using a stylus on a digital tablet instead of a paper application.

Immigration Services Officers (ISO) will instruct applicants on how to use the tablets before administering the tests. For the reading test, a sentence will appear on the tablet and the ISO will ask the applicant to read it. For the writing test, several lines will appear on the tablet, replicating the appearance of a piece of blank paper. The ISO will read a sentence aloud and ask the applicant to write it on the tablet.

PREMIUM PROCESSING FILING FEE INCREASING 10/1/2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it is adjusting the premium processing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers beginning on Oct. 1, 2018 to more effectively adjudicate petitions and maintain effective service to petitioners.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,410, a 14.92 percent increase (after rounding) from the current fee of $1,225. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010 based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers.

SUSPENSION OF H-1B PREMIUM PROCESSING

FROM USCIS:

USCIS is extending the previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions and, beginning Sept. 11, 2018, will be expanding this temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions. We expect these suspensions will last until Feb. 19, 2019, and will notify the public via uscis.gov before resuming premium processing for these petitions.

While H-1B premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service filed with an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If a petitioner submits one combined check for the Form I-907 and Form I‑129 H-1B fees, both forms will be rejected.

Who Is Affected

The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers (excluding cap-exempt filings as noted below).

The previously announced suspension of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions was originally slated to last until Sept. 10, 2018, but that suspension is being extended through an estimated date of Feb. 19, 2019.

We will continue premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions that are not currently suspended if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before Sept. 11, 2018. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:

  • The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before Sept. 11, 2018; and
  • We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

Premium Processing Remains Available for Certain H-1B Petitions

The suspension does not apply to:

  1. Cap-exempt petitions that are filed exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or
  2. Those petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” (Box b. on Part 2, Question 2, Page 2 of the current Form I-129) with a concurrent request to:
    1. Notify the office in Part 4 so each beneficiary can obtain a visa or be admitted. (Box on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129); or
    2. Extend the stay of each beneficiary because the beneficiary now holds this status. (Box c. on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129).

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to any other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

Requesting Expedited Processing

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. The petitioner must demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and petitioners should be prepared to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request.

We review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

Why We Are Temporarily Suspending Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

This temporary suspension will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times by allowing us to:

  • Process long-pending petitions, which we have been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and premium processing requests over the past few months;
  • Be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates; and
  • Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.