U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has resumed premium processing for all H-1B petitions. However, USCIS will delay premium processing handling for H-1B petitions submitted for this year’s lottery, which opens on April 1.
Two Tracks for Premium Processing
This year, only H-1B petitioners who are subject to the lottery and are requesting a change of status may request premium processing concurrently. However, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions right away in order to prioritize data entry. USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019.
Premium processing for all other H-1B petitions subject to the lottery will not begin until at least June 2019. H-1B petitioners not requesting a change of status must not submit their premium processing request form with their H-1B petition. USCIS will announce later the exact date when these H-1B petitioners can file for premium processing.
With premium processing, H-1B petitioners can pay a $1,410 fee to have USCIS decide their petition within 15 days. Without premium processing, an H-1B petitioner currently faces a wait time of more than 10 months for a decision.
Last year, USCIS suspended premium processing in March just ahead of the April lottery, citing a backlog. At the time, employers faced waiting six to eight months for USCIS to adjudicate H-1B petitions without premium processing. Now that USCIS has resumed premium processing for all new and pending H-1B applications, standard processing times for H-1B petitions will likely increase. In the last month, the minimum processing time for H-1B petitions increased to 10.5 months from 9.5 months.
H-1B Lottery Begins April 1
USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions on April 1, six months before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1.
If a petitioner requesting a change of status does not file for premium processing concurrently, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to file for it. If you are requesting a change of status, we recommend you file for premium processing concurrently to avoid any additional delay.
Currently, we are only accepting clients needing assistance with H-1B petitions for next month’s lottery on a case-by-case basis. Reach out to us as soon as possible. We can also help strategize alternatives in the event USCIS does not select your H-1B petition in the lottery.