USCIS announced that it is extending the suspension of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap-subject cases and beginning on September 11, 2018, expanding the suspension of premium processing to H-1B petitions filed with the Vermont Service Center and California Service Center.
The extension of the suspension of premium processing for the H-1B cap cases was extended from September 10, 2018, to February 19, 2019. However, premium processing will remain available for cap-exempt filings at the California Service Center, such as for institutions of higher education or nonprofit organizations affiliated with such institutions.
Also, premium processing will remain available for H-1B petitions filed at the Nebraska Service Center where the petitioner requested a continuation of employment with no changes (Form I-129, Box b. on Part 2, Question 2, Page 2). This applies to petitions requesting consular processing abroad or extension in the US.
USCIS advises that it will continue to consider expedited processing of petitions pursuant to its Expedited Criteria webpage. The petitioner must satisfy at least one of the criteria and be prepared to submit documentary evidence.
The unavailability of premium processing for H-1B cap cases requesting a change of status from F-1 student to H-1B where the F-1 student’s optional practical training (OPT) expired before October 1, 2018, will cause dire problems for certain petitioners and students. This is because the F-1 student’s OPT cap-gap extension will end on October 1, 2018, although the F-1 student may remain in the US while the petition is pending. The one exception to the ending of the OPT employment authorization is where the F-1 has a timely filed Form I-765 to extend his or her OPT based on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Math) degree.