H-1B Filing Season Opens April 3; Premium Processing Suspended

H-1B Filing Season Premium Processing
The USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on Monday, April 3, 2017.

Employers who need to apply for H-1B visas for foreign workers in specialized skill areas, such as science, engineering or computer programming, have a fast approaching deadline, as well as some new information regarding requests for premium processing.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on Monday, April 3, 2017. All cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 3, 2017, for the FY 2018 cap will be rejected.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.

The cap on H-1B visas is 65,000 per fiscal year. An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for the first 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

The USCIS monitors the number of petitions received and notifies the public when the H-1B cap has been met. In the past, the USCIS has hit the statutory cap within the first week of the open filing period, making advance planning essential. There are many more petitions than there are available visas.

H-1B petitioners must follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence. The filing fee has increased to $460, and petitioners no longer have 14 days to correct a dishonored payment. If any fee payments are not honored by the bank or financial institution, the USCIS will reject the entire H-1B petition without the option for the petitioner to correct it.

The USCIS provides a helpful Optional Checklist (Form M-735) to assist FY 2018 H-1B petitioners. This checklist provides detailed information on how to complete and submit an FY 2018 H-1B petition.

For more information, visit USCIS’s H-1B FY 2018 Cap Season webpage.

Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing

Recently, the USCIS announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3 for up to six months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

The stated purpose of the temporary suspension is to help reduce overall processing times and allow the USCIS to process long-pending petitions.

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners can still submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they can meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. Documentary evidence to support the expedite request should be submitted.

The USCIS reviews all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and approval of requests is discretionary.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

CalChamber members can read more on Immigrant Workers and Discrimination/Retaliation Protections in the HR Library. Not a member? Learn more about what HRCalifornia can do for you.

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