U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans on resuming premium processing this week for all H-1B petitions filed before Dec. 21, 2018. Affected petitioners need to submit a premium processing request to the relevant processing center, along with a copy of the transfer notice and any request for evidence (RFE).
This follows on the heels of USCIS re-opening premium processing for fiscal year 2019 (FY 2019) cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for advanced degree exemption. “We plan to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H‑1B petitions as agency workloads permit,” reads a note on the USCIS website. “We will continue to notify the public via uscis.gov when we begin accepting premium processing for other categories of H-1B petitions.”
The general suspension—originally enacted in early 2017—made it more difficult for petitioners to obtain H-1B visas, and for H-1B visa holders to jump jobs or move to new company offices. At the time, USCIS claimed that the suspension would give it the time necessary to process a backlog of petitions. It also kicked off much angst amongst companies used to relying on premium processing to meet their staffing needs.
While processing was suspended, the Trump administration made other H-1B moves, from changes to processing paperwork (the U.S. Department of Labor now requires employers that apply for H-1B visas to name any subcontractors where H-1B workers may end up on a contract basis) to attempting a ban on the H-4 visa.
But those changes could pale in comparison to the administration’s much-rumored plan to completely retool the H-1B lottery system. Under that proposed reordering, H-1B applicant pools will have all applicants (including those with advanced degrees) enter the annual “general pool” of 65,000 visas. After that, remaining applicants with advanced degrees will enter a 20,000-visa “master’s cap” pool. In theory, applicants will have two good shots at actually landing a visa under the new system.
Whatever changes are coming in 2019 and beyond, it’s clear that USCIS is re-opening the gates to speedy applications, which suggests that the agency has handled its purported backlog. Does that mean the Trump administration will begin processing H-1Bs even faster in the future?