On March 20, 2020 the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily ceased accepting any requests for premium processing on all Form I-129 and Form I-140 filings. The decision became effective immediately as another effort of USCIS to ease the burden on its operators amidst the COVID-19 health crisis. As a result, employers and foreign workers alike are now trying to manage their expectations, plan onboarding timelines, and strategize extensions and account for months-long processing.
As USCIS has not announced a projected timeline for reinstating premium processing, NPZ Law Group, P.C. would like to address potential scenarios and answers questions you may have at this time.
Even without premium processing, both employers and employees can and should continue operating normally and should plan to rely on the protections already built into the system. While the security an employee feels from having their approval on hand will imminently not be there for the time being, the system is still flexible enough to allow employers and their attorneys to effectively protect the H-1B workers even without premium processing.
The regulations already foresee that USCIS will not always be able to process requests for extensions before the expiration of the most recent approvals. As a result, many visa categories that require an I-129 filing, including H-1B, benefit from an automatic 240-day extension of work authorization, provided that a timely request for an extension was made. While the regulations do not protect the H-1B worker’s right to travel, the present health crisis itself has severely restricted the ability of individuals to travel internationally, or even domestically.
While it is not an ideal scenario for employees, H-1B workers can rest assured that regardless of when premium processing is reinstated, their right to work will nonetheless be protected as long as their extension requests are filed in a timely manner.
The suspension of premium processing became effective on March 20, 2020 and applies to all Form I-129 and Form I-140 filings, thus affecting the bulk of non-immigrants in lawful status presently in the United States. To best ensure maintenance of status, employers should continue timely filing requests for extension or change of status as usual and should plan to rely on the already built in regulatory protections and tools available to them and discussed above.
While the current suspension and travel restrictions will ultimately delay the start dates of employment for many of these individuals, it is important to remember that not all avenues to expedite a case are completely shut off. Traditionally, USCIS has the discretion to expedite the review of some petitions, provided that employers can successfully document the existence of certain limited factors, including severe financial loss.
If you would like assistance with an immigration and nationality law issue or to learn how the COVID19 pandemic potentially may affect your immigration status, NPZ Law Group, P.C. is here to help you, your family, friends, and business associates. We invite you to visit www.visaserve.com or to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or to call us at 201.670.0006 for a consultation.