H-1B Cap

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing Service for All H-1B Petitions, Clarifies PPS for Cap Petitions

Updated March 19, 2019:

On March 11, 2019, USCIS announced that it would resume Premium Processing Service for all H-1B petitions, effective on March 12, 2019. The USCIS news alert is posted here. Two days later, USCIS clarified via AILA liaison that H cap petitions were not covered by the March 11 announcement.

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing Service for H-1B Cases Filed on or before December 21, 2018

On February 15, 2019, USCIS announced that it would resume premium processing service (“PPS”) for H-1B cases filed on or before December 21, 2018. USCIS previously announced that it would also resume PPS for FY 2019 “cap” cases – i.e., those petitions filed in last year’s H-1B lottery that are not yet adjudicated.

USCIS to Release New Version of Form I-539, Require Biometrics from all Applicants

On February 11, 2019, USCIS announced that, on March 11, 2019, it will release a new version of the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant status. The form is commonly used for dependents’ status extensions, among other applications. The form, when released, will have an immediate effective date of March 11, 2019, which means that any applications filed on or after that date must use the new form.

USCIS announces final changes to cap-subject H-1B visa petition processing

On January 30, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced a final rule effective April 1, 2019 that changes the way cap-subject H-1B petitions will be processed in two ways: first, petitioners seeking to file petitions will have to register electronically with USCIS during a designated registration period; and second, the order in which cap-subject petitions are selected in years when demand exceeds supply (i.e., when a lottery is required) has been reversed.  We discussed these changes in depth when they were proposed, in our December 3, 2018 blog post.

DHS publishes proposed changes to cap-subject H-1B visa petition processing

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would make changes to the way cap-subject H-1B petitions are processed. There are two proposed changes: first, petitioners seeking to file petitions will have to register electronically with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period; and second, the order in which cap-subject petitions are selected in years when demand exceeds supply has been reversed. These changes are made pursuant to President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, issued in 2017.

USCIS Announces Further Suspensions of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B Cases

In an announcement on August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that, instead of lifting the suspension of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B “cap” cases that was supposed to last only through September 10, 2018, it is extending the PPS ban for such cases to February 19, 2019.  In addition, starting September 11, 2018, USCIS will extend its PPS ban to most other types of H-1B cases, as well. 

H-1B cap update – USCIS reports 190,098 petitions received

Today USCIS announced that it received 190,098 H-1B petitions in the filing period that began on April 2. On April 11 USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS says that it conducted the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first; all advanced degree petitions not selected were then made part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Any petitions not randomly selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

H-1B cap reached for FY 2019, lottery triggered

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2019. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will not accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2019 cap or the advanced degree exemption after today.

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing Service for H-1B cap-subject petitions

On March 20, 2018, USCIS announced that starting April 2, 2018, it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B cap-subject petitions. This suspension may last until at least September 10, 2018. The temporary suspension applies only to FY19 cap-subject H-1B petitions (i.e., petitions submitted in the annual lottery). Non-cap-subject H filings, such as for extensions and change-of-employers, will be able to use premium processing. While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B cap-subject petition if they meet certain criteria. USCIS indicated that it needs the suspension to focus on reducing backlogs and processing times.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

H-1B “cap” season and the government shutdown

Although many businesses have become accustomed to the seasonality of sponsoring H-1B visas, there is a new reason for employers to identify candidates and employees potentially needing H-1B sponsorship early this year: the looming government shutdown.  Although U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS, the agency that adjudicates H-1B visa petitions) is fee-funded, and operates as usual during a shutdown, a government shutdown affects the issuance of a critical H-1B prerequisite document by the U.S. Department of Labor.  Without this document, the H-1B “cap” case cannot be filed.  Currently the government is funded until February 8, 2018, and future shutdowns appear possible before the April H-1B filing window opens.  Therefore, it’s imperative to initiate cases, now, while the government is “open for business.”

As background, the H-1B visa is the U.S.’s workhorse visa for professionals.  Not all jobs and all individuals are H-1B-eligible.  In general, the job must be one that ordinarily requires knowledge and skills obtained by earning a Bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific field, and the individual must have the required degree or equivalent.  For first-time H-1B applicants, there is a narrow application window in the first week of April for employers to submit H-1B petitions to USCIS.  Depending on the issues in a case, it can take several weeks for an application to be ready to file.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018