On Tuesday, March 17, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing services for all petitions filed under the H-1B cap-subject category.

As stated in the announcement, H-1B petitioners will not be able to request premium processing by the time the USCIS starts accepting petitions on April 1. Any I-907 filed with the H-1B petition under this category will be rejected during the suspension.

When Will the USCIS Resume Premium Processing?

Similar to previous suspension periods, premium processing will resume at a later date. According to the USCIS, the temporary suspension will help the processing officers reduce overall H-1B processing times. And in the same manner, H-1B for FY 2021 will be done in two phases so as to help the USCIS best manage premium processing requests.

The first phase will be for H-1B cap-subject petitions, including beneficiaries that are eligible for the advanced degree exemption and those who are looking to change their status from F-1 to H-1B. The second phase will be for all other petitioners who wish to use the premium processing service for their cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those requesting consular notification.

Premium processing for F-1 to H-1B change of status requests for cap-subject petitions will resume no later than May 27. To be eligible to use the service, petitioner filing for a change of status from an F-1 visa must select “b” as their response to the “Request Action” option for item 4 part 2 of the I-129 petition. They should also indicate F-1 in item 5 “Current Nonimmigrant Status” of part 3 of the form. For all other cap-subject cases, the earliest date the USCIS will resume premium processing will be June 29.

The USCIS will announce the date for the resumption of premium processing to allow petitioners to prepare ahead for their I-907 submission. Petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing once the service resumes.

A Brief Background About the H-1B Program

The H-1B program allows organizations in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers. The eligible occupations for this visa category are jobs that require the practical and theoretical application of specialized knowledge.

Generally, an H-1B beneficiary must possess a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty or its equivalent. Common fields for the H-1B include engineering, science, and technology. Professionals in other fields such as teaching and accounting may also be eligible.

Does the Suspension Also Affect Cap-Exempt Petitions?

No, the suspension only applies to H-1B cap-subject cases. At this time, the premium processing service is available for petitions that are under the H-1B cap exemption category. It is also available to those applying for an extension of stay. Applicants under this category are those who are applying for a transfer for their H-1B status as well as those who have a job offer for an institution of higher education, a nonprofit organization associated with an institution of higher education, or a governmental research center.