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Overburdened Immigration Service Temporarily Suspends Expedited Visa Processing

By Dawn M. Lurie

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on May 19, 2015 that the agency will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions until July 27, 2015. This action reflects the need to shift resources in light of the upcoming Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule, which will drain resources based on the expected initial high volume. 

The agency confirmed, however, that it will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions for requests filed prior to May 26, 2015. USCIS further stated that H-1B petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of status or consular notification will continue to be processed without incident. Still, suspension of premium processing may have a substantial impact on H1B workers over the next few months.

Premium processing of a case allows a company to pay an extra $1,225 in addition to all standard filing fees for premium service.  This means an expedited response within 15 days. With the unavailability of premium processing, employers can expect extended processing times.  Adjudications of H1B filings are currently taking 2 months. 

The temporary suspension of premium processing is likely to impact H-1B employee summer travel plans as well as business trips.  Most H-1B workers applying for an Extension of Stay will also require a visa renewal the first time they travel abroad. A valid H-1B approval is required to apply for the new visa.  Accordingly a petition approval is necessary prior to traveling outside the United States. Employers are urged to contact immigration counsel to discuss these travel related implications and the overall impact of the suspension of premium processing.