Premium processing is a fast-track method for getting an H-1B case approved. For a fee of $1,225 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agrees to take action on a case within 15 calendar days. This is in comparison to the current regular (non-premium processing) adjudication time frame, which is now between six and eight months.
Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. The suspension, which may last up to six months, means that medical students and residents seeking either initial H-1B status or who are seeking to extend their current H-1B status will not be able to have their petition adjudicated pursuant to the premium processing fast track method. This suspension will have a detrimental impact on both current and aspiring H-1B status holders.
FOR RESIDENTS APPLYING FOR AN EXTENSION OF THEIR CURRENT H-1B STATUS:
If you are a resident who is already in H-1B status but you need an extension to continue to work for your current employer, you must file your extension case before your current status expires. If you do this, once you receive your H-1B receipt acknowledging your case has been filed you can continue to work for an additional 240 days while you await an approval. Many CIR members file their H-1B extension case and wait the many months until it’s approved. However, in certain circumstances, a faster approval is needed. For example, if you need to travel abroad after your H-1B expires you will not be able to return to the U.S. without your H-1B approval and a new H-1B visa stamp from a U.S. Consulate abroad. Second, in the vast majority of instances U.S. drivers’ licenses expire when a foreign national’s status expires and DMV won’t renew a license without a new approval notice. Therefore, if you need to drive to work or to take your children to school, the expiration of your driver’s license could have a huge impact on your life.
FOR CURRENT OR INCOMING RESIDENTS WHO ARE APPLYING FOR INITIAL H-1B STATUS:
If you are a foreign national who either currently does not have H-1B status or who is switching to H-1B status from another status, you will need your H-1B approval notice in order to begin working in H-1B status (you cannot work on the strength of your H-1B receipt!). For foreign nationals in one of these situations, a suspension of the Premium Processing Program likely means that you will not be able to begin work as an H-1B status holder until USCIS restarts the Premium Processing Program. USCIS has stated that premium processing may not be available for as long as 6 months from the suspension date of April 3rd, so it is possible the option to premium process an H-1B petition will not become available again until early October.
For incoming residents who match into residency programs in March, this means that H-1B status may not be a viable option. Instead they’ll likely need to apply for J-1 status. For these residents, J-1 status carries with it a 2-year home residency requirement at the conclusion of residency. This means that a foreign national must return home for two years before they can apply for another status in the U.S. A resident can obtain a waiver of the 2-year home residency requirement (a J-1 waiver) and remain in the U.S. but to do so they are required to work in a medically underserved area for three years. Waivers, however, can be hard to secure as there are a limited number available.
The information contained above is provided for general information purposes and does not contain legal advice for any specific case. You should not rely on this information or take any legal or other action based on this information, prior to consulting with competent legal counsel. CIR assumes no liability for any reliance on the information contained above.