USCIS recently announced that the agency will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions beginning on April 3, 2017.  USCIS indicates the purpose of the suspension is to process H-1B petitions that have been pending for many months, including in particular those approaching the 240-day automatic extension limitation, which would thereby reduce overall H-1B processing times.  Please find below a list of frequently asked questions with our insights.

1.  What is the effective date of the suspension?

The premium processing suspension is effective on April 3, 2017.  The last day that USCIS will accept H-1B petitions filed with premium processing is Friday, March 31, 2017.

2. How long will the suspension last?

USCIS states that the suspension may last up to six months.  USCIS imposed a similar suspension in the past and lifted the suspension early.

3.  Does the suspension apply only to H-1Bs or other visa categories?

The suspension is limited to H-1B petitions only.  This includes H-1B petitions seeking to extend status, amend status, change status, consular process, or change employers.

4.  Can H-1B petitions be filed with premium processing in the month of March?  If so, will USCIS continue to honor premium processing cases if they are still pending beyond April 3rd?

Yes, USCIS will accept an H-1B petition filed with premium processing on or before Friday, March 31, 2017.  We anticipate that any H-1B petition filed with premium processing that is receipted on or before March 31st will receive the full benefit of premium processing, even if the adjudication continues beyond April 3rd.  However, based on the posted USCIS announcement, the agency has discretion to refund premium processing fees if the agency has not taken adjudicative action on the case within  the 15-calendar-day premium processing period.

Continue Reading USCIS Suspends H-1B Premium Processing Beginning April 3, 2017

Seyfarth Synopsis: This BIG Blog post addresses fourteen Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from employers and foreign nationals regarding President Trump’s recent Executive Order on immigration.

1.  I’m not from one of the listed countries but have international travel planned. Is there anything I should know or do?

If you are not from one of the listed countries and you have an unexpired visa stamp (or if you are Canadian and do not require a visa stamp), the Executive Order will not affect your ability to travel.  If you do not have an unexpired visa stamp and plan to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, you should anticipate visa appointment backlogs when scheduling your appointment.  In addition, we expect that Consular officers will screen visa applicants more thoroughly and will not hesitate to place visa applications under administrative processing, particularly if the applicant possesses a degree in an academic field that is on the government’s Technology Alert List, including degrees in Nuclear Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Biomolecular Engineering, and Cybersecurity.

2.  I’m currently traveling internationally but I am not from one of the listed countries.  Is there anything I need to be aware of about returning to the U.S.?

Similar to the above, despite your country of birth and/or your current citizenship, you must  be prepared for delays when entering into the U.S. Please make sure you are carrying and presenting all of the necessary documents for admission in your visa category.  In addition, we are hearing reports of Customs and Border Protection officers asking to search phone contacts and social media information.  Please keep this in mind as you plan your travel and enter the U.S Specifically, if you have a connecting flight after your initial entry into the U.S., allow additional time between those flights to get through the Customs and Border control screening process.

3.  I already have a “Drop-Box” confirmation; can I still use the Drop-Box?

Although we have heard reports from various U.S. Embassies and Consulates (specifically, those in the UK, Canada, and India) that the “Drop-Box” visa applications are still being honored, you should not rely on using the Drop-Box option and should make an appointment with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, as the Drop-Box program can be suspended without notice.

Continue Reading Immigration-Related FAQs In Response to President Trump’s Recent Executive Orders, as of February 2, 2017