The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

USCIS H-1B Processing Changes

On April 3, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions for a period of up to six months. This temporary suspension was announced in early March. The agency claims the change will help reduce overall processing times, as USCIS will be able to “process long-pending petitions … and prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.”

Premium processing, however, has been used frequently by colleges and universities that need a predictable timeline to ensure highly-skilled faculty are in place at the start of the semester. The premium processing  allows an employer to pay a fee of $1,225 to expedite a visa application and have it processed within 15 days, as opposed to the regular processing time of six or more months.

After hearing concerns from our members that this change in policy will disproportionately harm colleges and universities, we joined Association of American Universities, Association of Public Land-grant Universities and other higher ed associations in sending a letter to USCIS acting director Lori Scialabba. In the letter, we ask for relief from the suspension and explain the severe impact it will have on colleges and universities “currently in the midst of hiring negotiations [which] will not be able to have their international employees begin work until mid-semester at best, potentially leaving classes stranded without professors [and the institution unable] to adhere to a strict academic calendar.”

It is important to remember that while premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the USCIS web page. “We review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis, and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership,” states the note.

CUPA-HR will continue to watch the premium processing suspension closely, and we will notify members should USCIS announce any changes to this policy.