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Premium Processing Of H-1B Petitions Temporarily Suspended

On March 3, 2017, it was announced that, starting April 3, 2017, there will be a temporary suspension of expedited handling or “premium processing” for all H-1B petitions. “Premium Processing” is a program whereby, for an additional fee, an H-1B petition would be adjudicated within 15 calendar days of its receipt, as opposed to a much longer period for non “premium processing” petitioners. This suspension may last up to six months.

The suspension described above will take effect on April 3, 2017, which is the same day upon which employers may file new H-1B petitions subject to the 85,000 yearly cap for H-1B petitions which will become available on October 1, 2017. Last year, more than 240,000 applications for those approximately 85,000 available “visa slots” were filed.

There are more questions than answers at this point. For example, a number of International Medical Graduates will be completing their residencies in the U.S. in June of this summer and might otherwise be eligible to apply for H-1B status so they can begin providing medical services. Their potential status is, at this point, unknown.

At the same time the above-described suspension was announced, criteria to expedite the handling of certain H-1B petitions were announced by the Department of Homeland Security. However, they include such criteria such as “severe financial loss to company or person,” “emergency situations,” “humanitarian reasons,” etc. It is unclear at this time how those criteria will be applied.

An issue which is not readily apparent with respect to the suspension is its impact on employees in H-1B status whose state issued driver’s licenses will expire at the end of their presently-authorized H-1B status. A number of different approaches are being discussed by immigration practitioners and individuals as well, but the actual application or viability of those theories, at least at this point, remain in question.

As with the Executive Order, we will provide our clients and friends with updates on this developing situation.