March 15, 2017

USCIS will accept new H-1B petition filings subject to the annual cap for FY 2018 from April 3 to April 7, 2017. However,  the Service will simultaneously suspend the availability of Premium processing for all H-1B cases as of April 3rd, including those for cap-exempt employers, portability between employers, and extension of stay requests for existing staff.

The suspension of Premium processing means all cap-subject new H-1B petitions could remain pending past October 1st, but it also has huge implications for H-1B workers and employers who are not facing this year’s cap. It is guaranteed to negatively impact the US business community and many foreign workers already counted against the cap in prior years whose H-1B status needs to be extended, as well as cap-exempt organizations such as universities and teaching hospitals, since adjudication of non-Premium petitions can routinely take 240 days or more.

Adding to the misery, under the Patriot Act, state motor vehicle authorities will not renew a foreign worker’s driver’s license unless the worker presents a currently-valid I-797A Notice of Approval from USCIS. This means that H-1B workers who are beneficiaries of timely-filed extension requests could be stuck unable to drive for months on end. Outside of New York City, where few residents need to drive, this will impact any company that has existing H-1B employees, or whose contractors have H-1B employees, if some of those workers need to extend their status after April 3rd and need to drive to get to work. This is likely to create big headaches even for companies that file no cap-subject H-1B petitions this year.