USCIS says the two-phase approach will make the process more effective and efficient.
As per new USCIS announcement, premium processing will be offered in two-phases during the 2020 fiscal year. The first phase will include H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. The second phase will include all other petitions.
Earlier this month, when the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing for all H-1B visa petitions, it brought sigh of relief for thousands of H-1B aspirants. But, as the date nears for the new applications for H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2020, it is apparent that premium processing may suffer some delays.
According to an announcement made on Tuesday by USCIS, there would be a delay in the premium processing for applications subject to the H-1B cap. While it still may be better news than last year, when the authorities fully suspended the service citing application backlog, those looking ahead for a speedy answer to their visa applications will have to be a bit more patient.
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The new announcement clarified that, this year, the premium processing for H-1B visas for fiscal year 2020 will be offered in two phases and the new approach will make the process more effective and efficient for employers and USCIS.
“USCIS continually strives to improve the administration of the H-1B program and make it work better for employers, our agency, and U.S. workers,” USCIS Director Francis Cissna said in a statement. “We are also committed to fulfilling the president’s Buy American and Hire American executive order, one of the principal goals of which is to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system, in part by promoting the proper functioning of the H-1B visa program. Our new H-1B data hub will make information more accessible to the public, and the new selection process will help make the system more meritorious and better protect the wages of U.S. workers. Additionally, our two-phased approach to premium processing will make the process more effective and efficient for employers and USCIS.”
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In the first phase, only the applicants requesting a “change of status” to a different visa would be eligible. However, the premium processing won’t start for these petitions immediately. The USCIS said that the service, which expedites results in 15 days after levying a fee of $1,410, will begin no later than May 20. The decision is taken in order to prioritize data entry for H-1B applications that have an annual cap of 85,000. The agency will also notify the public when the premium processing begins.
The agency has advised that those seeking a change of status should send a premium processing request along with the I-129 visa application.
For all the other H-1B applicants, premium processing would not start until at least June. The agency advised that, in other cases, a premium processing request must not be submitted concurrently along with the application. This would mean that those who would want to take advantage of premium processing should only apply for it, once it is provided. The agency would again notify the public when a date is set for premium processing to begin for applicants who are not seeking a status change.
The current administration has been continually tweaking the H-1B selection process in order to ensure more American workers are given a better chance in the work force. Recently the USCIS had also announced a swap in the lottery system in order to favor petitioners with degrees from American universities.
The agency clarified that, at this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.
Meanwhile, USCIS also announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the 2020 fiscal year cap on April 1, 2019. It will reject any 2020 cap-subject petitions filed before April 1.