The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced on May 19, 2015, that it will temporarily suspend premium processing service for all H-1B extension petitions, effective May 26, 2015, through July 27, 2015.  This announcement is made in light of the imminent implementation of employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses so that all applications for employment authorization filed by qualified H-4 spouses may be adjudicated in a timely manner. 

The USCIS will continue to process all H-1B petitions filed prior to May 26, 2015 with a premium processing request; however, for all petitions filed prior to May 26, 2015, if the USCIS is not able to adjudicate within the 15 calendar day window, it will refund the $1,225 filing fee.   

The suspension of premium processing for H-1B extension requests impacts an employer’s ability to request adjudication of an H-1B petition in 15 calendar days if the employer wishes to extend a current employee’s H-1B status, or to “port” an H-1B worker from a different company.  This may also impact an employee’s travel plans if his or her H-1B status expires while the petition is still pending; if the employee’s H-1B status has expired, travel is not an option as he or she will not be able to reenter the United States or secure a new visa stamp if the old visa stamp has expired.  This may also impact an employee’s ability to renew a driver’s license if the employee cannot present a new Form I-797 H-1B approval notice.  It should be noted that if the H-1B extension request is filed prior to the employee’s H-1B status expiration date, but the employee’s H-1B status expires while the petition is pending, the employee will continue to have work authorization for 240 days after the expiration date. 

Premium processing will continue to remain available for certain cases, and will remain available for H-1B cap petitions requesting either a change of status or consular notification.  If an H-1B extension petition is filed between May 26, 2015 and July 27, 2015 and not adjudicated by the time premium processing is available again, an employer may choose to “upgrade” to premium process the case so that it can be adjudicated within 15calendar days upon receipt of Form I-907 and the $1,225 filing fee.