USCIS Resumes H-1B Premium Processing and Administration Announces Intent to Close Many USCIS International Offices

March 13, 2019

On March 11, USCIS announced that it would resume premium processing for all H-1B petition filings. Premium processing facilitates an expedited process for adjudication of nonimmigrant petitions including H1-B, L1, O1 and O2, E and R visas and others. For an additional government filing fee of $1410, USCIS will adjudicate or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) within 15 calendar days of receipt of the petition. Should USCIS be unable to meet the required 15-day timeline, premium processing fees are refunded.

Any petition which received an RFE would need to include the premium processing request and fee along with the RFE response to the specific Service Center to which a case might be pending or to which it might have been transferred.

All of this season’s new H-1B “cap” petitions to be filed commencing Friday, March 29 and through the first week of April 2019 are also included in the resumption of H-1B premium processing procedures. In the past few years, USCIS had suspended premium processing for H-1B cap-subject petitions.

The administration also announced this week that it intends to shut down its international division by year-end. The USCIS international division services U.S. citizens, permanent residents and refugee applicants in its worldwide locations. The agency stated that the move was made to furnish more staff with resources to handle the lengthy backlogs in asylum applicants from tens of thousands of migrants crossing the southern border each month.

USCIS international offices serve as a resource for facilitating legal immigration from abroad and logistical assistance to U.S. citizens wishing to expedite the relocation of family members to the United States. Such U.S. citizens would include Americans adopting children internationally and members of the military and their families applying for citizenship. The USCIS international locations have also played critical roles in immigration fraud detection.

Closing Thoughts

The resumption of premium processing in all H-1B categories will give great relief for the U.S. business community. The transfer of specialty occupation workers from one employer to another and a swifter decision-making process will make the fraught visa process a bit more predictable with more manageable time frames. The closing of USCIS international offices will affect Americans and their families living abroad as well as others wishing to immigrate to the United States by removing the local and accessible contact that had previously been taken for granted and available to expats, refugees and others. It remains to be seen how the administration will compensate for the lack of its international services and whether the U.S. State Department, for example, may step in to fill in the gaps left behind by USCIS.

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