As noted in one of our previous updates, USCIS announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions effective April 3, 2017. Premium Processing is an optional service for certain nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions that guarantees initial adjudication of a petition within 15 calendar days for an additional fee of $1,225. As regular processing times for H-1B petitions have increased significantly over the past 18 months -- from 2-4 months to upwards of 9-12 months -- many petitioners have used Premium Processing to facilitate quicker start dates for H-1B employees and for obtaining approval notices they may need for international travel. USCIS has not announced a firm end date for the premium processing suspension but did indicate it could last for up to 6 months. This suspension has a major impact not only on the annual H-1B cap-subject lottery but also for hiring plans for cap-exempt institutions like universities and teaching hospitals, many of which have summer/fall start dates for foreign national employees.
As a reminder, USCIS accepts expedite requests on a case-by-case basis if a foreign national or an employer can demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria has been met. USCIS lists the following as criteria they will consider for reviewing expedite requests: severe financial loss to company or person; emergency situation; humanitarian reasons; nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States; Department of Defense or national interest situation (note these requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state the delay will be detrimental to the government); USCIS error; or compelling interest of USCIS. If you have a question about the premium processing suspension or need assistance with assessing an expedite request, please contact the attorneys at Iandoli Desai & Cronin at firstname.lastname@example.org.