LawQuest US Immigration Alert - What Does Premium Processing Suspension Mean for Companies and Employees?

UOn March 3, 2017, the US immigration authorities suspended the expedited service – premium processing – widely used by US companies in the H-1B program, effective, April 3, 2017.

The "Premium Processing" service available to the H-1B visa category, guarantees adjudication of the H-1B applications within a short period of 15 days, at an additional cost of US $1,225.  Petitions that are not filed under this service take much longer to be adjudicated, roughly between 3-6 months.  Tier-I Indian IT services companies largely use the premium processing option for H-1B visas for their employees.

The premium processing service is particularly critical during the H-1B cap season in April every year.  Applicants who opt for this service do not have to wait for the regular waiting period to find out if their H-1B petition has been approved or not.  With the suspension of this option, all applicants will now have to wait on an average between 3-6 months to find out if the H-1B is granted.

Who is affected?

Both employers and employees will be affected.  As for the employer, with the premium processing fast track option, an employer would know quickly whether its candidate’s H-1B is granted or not, and can plan to onboard the employee or hire someone else.  With this option gone, all employers will have no choice but to wait for months to know the outcome.  At times, an employer may not know until as late as September, whether its candidate will be able to work or not starting October.

The premium processing suspension will also cause uncertainty among the foreign worker community.  For instance, for a worker whose existing H-1B validity is expiring, or for H-1B workers who are in the process of switching jobs, under the fast track option, they would not have to wait for months to figure out whether they should be renewing their lease to continue their stay in the US or whether they should make plans to return to their home country.

The suspension may also bring about delays in renewing one’s driver’s license or travelling outside of the US while the adjudication of the visa petition is pending.

This change has been brought about by the US government in an effort to reduce the overall H-1B processing time, giving the government the ability to process long pending petitions that have been pushed to the lower end of the pile due to high volumes of premium processing cases in the past few years.

By Zeenat Phophalia, Esq., Senior Associate


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