USCIS has announced that effective September 11, 2018, it will suspend for five months the 15 day Premium Processing option for most H-1b petitions. USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests from cap-exempt H-1b employers (such as universities and affiliated institutions) and for H-1b extension petitions where the job and employer have not changed. USCIS anticipates reinstating H-1b Premium Processing on February 19, 2019.
The suspension does not apply to any other visa category for which premium processing is available, including O-1 (extraordinary ability), L-1 (corporate transfers), and TN (Canada and Mexico NAFTA). USCIS will also continue premium processing of I-140 permanent employment petitions for all categories for which it is currently available. The suspension will also not affect any Premium Processed H-1b petition filed on or before September 10, 2018.
USCIS stated that the suspension is necessary to “process long pending petitions”, to “be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates”, and to “prioritize adjudication of H‐1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240‐day mark.” In other words, USCIS is suspending most expedited H-1b processing so that it can expedite H-1b processing. The “240 day mark” explanation is particularly unsatisfying, since the only extension petitions affected by that limitation are extensions without amendment – which USCIS has exempted from the suspension.
Additionally, USCIS has announced that, effective October 1, 2018, the filing fee for all premium processing requests will increase 15%, to $1,410. The current premium processing fee is $1225. USCIS stated in a press release that it “intends to hire additional staff and make investments in information technology systems with the funds generated by the fee increase.