USCIS Suspends Premium Processing of All H-1B Visa Petitions as of April 3rd, 2017

  • By Gabriela Ungo
  • 04 Mar, 2017

Suspension Hurts U.S. Companies, Universities and Hospitals 

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporary suspend premium processing of all H-1B visa petitions starting on April 3, 2017, for up to six months.

Who Is Affected?

The suspension  applies to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”) and petitions that may be cap-exempt. USCIS announced that after April 3rd, 2017 it will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, USCIS will reject both forms.

Please note that non-cap subject H-1B petitions (such as Conrad Program Foreign Medical Graduates with approved J-1 waivers, universities and nonprofits) may request premium processing of petitions   received on or before March 31st, 2017. 

Normal Expedited Criteria Available  

USCIS advised petitioners to submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition, which is analyzed on a case-by-case basis if they meet the following criteria:

  • Severe financial loss to company or ​person​;​
  • Emergency situation;​
  • Humanitarian reasons;​
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States​;​
  • Department of Defense or ​n​ational ​i​nterest ​s​ituation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);​
  • USCIS error; or​
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.​ 

Regular Petitions

Regular H-1B petitions are currently averaging 6 to 8 months depending on the USCIS jurisdiction processing the case.  We are anticipating even more delays in regular processing times while premium processing is suspended, which will definately impact U.S. employers, particularly technology firms, hospitals and universities. 

Foreign Medical Graduates

Our law firm is diligently working to expedite and file all eligible cases subject to the Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program, before the April 3rd deadline. The premium processing suspension will affect many physicians who may be unable to meet deadlines to begin work in medically underserved areas and certain medical residents and fellows who may be unable to begin their programs if their H-1B petitions are not adjudicated by certain dates. The issue gained national news coverage on  http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/09/news/economy/hospitals-doctors-fast-track-processing-h-1b-visa/
By Gabriela Ungo 09 Nov, 2017
On November 6, 2017, the  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has  announced  changes concerning Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaragua and Honduras.  T PS for Nicaragua will be terminated effective January 5, 2019. TPS for Honduras will be extended temporarily through July 5, 2018 while DHS considers a final decision on redesignation of that country.

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke  r ecognized the difficulty facing citizens of Nicaragua – and potentially citizens of other countries – who have received TPS designation for close to two decades, and called on Congress to enact a permanent solution for this inherently temporary program. 

The following countries are currently designated for TPS:     El Salvador ,   Haiti ,   Honduras ,   Nepal ,   Nicaragua ,   Somalia ,   South Sudan ,   Sudan ,   Syria , and   Yemen .
By Gabriela Ungo 06 Sep, 2017

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Specifically, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the 2012 memorandum creating DACA and stated that as of September 5, 2017, the government will no longer process any new DACA applications. 

While Congress may act and pass a permanent protection for Dreamers, the following points issued by the American Immigration Lawyers Association  (AILA) outline today's announcement:  

1. If You Do Not Have DACA or a DACA Application Pending . You cannot apply. The program has been terminated and new applications are no longer being accepted by USCIS.

2. If You Have DACA That Expires on or Before March 5, 2018 . If you have DACA and a work permit that expires on or before March 5, 2018, you can apply for a 2-year renewal, but your application must be received on or before October 5, 2017. Be advised that you cannot file an employment authorization application more than 180 days before its expiration date.

3. If You Have DACA That Expires After March 5, 2018. If your DACA and work permit expire after March 5, 2018, you are not eligible for an extension and your DACA, work authorization, and protection from deportation will expire on the date shown on your DACA approval notice and work permit.

4. If You Have a DACA Application Pending . If you have a DACA application that was received at USCIS on or before September 5, 2017, your application will continue to be processed.

5. If You Have DACA and a Valid Advance Parole Travel Document . If you have DACA and have a currently valid advance parole document, you may still use the document to travel and return to the U.S. as long as you return BEFORE the document expires. However, even with a valid travel document, CBP can refuse to let you in. At this time, we are not recommending traveling outside the United States.

6. If You Have an Advance Parole Travel Document Application Pending . USCIS will no longer process or approve applications for advance parole for DACA recipients. If you have an application for DACA-based advance parole pending as of September 5, 2017, USCIS will close the application and return the filing fees to you.

7. Your DACA Can Be Terminated at Any Time . Even with valid DACA and a valid work permit, the government can terminate your DACA and work permit at any me if it believes you are no longer eligible or for any other reason.

8. Do Not Talk to a Notario. Notarios are not lawyers and are not trained to fully understand the complex U.S. immigration system. Some notarios will take your money and give you bad advice. Protect yourself and your family by trusting a qualified immigration lawyer with your legal decisions.

TAKE ACTION: Now that the Trump administration has ended the DACA program, it is critical that Congress step up and pass legislation to permanently protect Dreamers. The 2017 Dream Act would allow these young people to live and work in the U.S. without fear. The bill would allow qualified undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before the age of 18 a pathway to citizenship. To be eligible, individuals must graduate from high school or pass the GED and either attend college or enlist in the military.AILA’s Advocacy Action Center allows you to advocate for legislative and policy reforms consistent with AILA’s principles and priorities. 

Tell Congress Now that is the Time to Protect Dreamers!


By Gabriela Ungo 01 Sep, 2017
Starting on October 1, 2017, USCIS will require an in-person interview for employment-based green card applicants (I-485 adjustment of status interviews), as well as for family members of refugees or asylees applying for derivative refugee or asylee status (I-730 refugee/asylee relative interviews). 

Applicants in these categories did not previously require an interview, the agency said, though green card interviews are conducted for marriages when applicable. USCIS Director James W. McCament. “USCIS and our federal partners are working collaboratively to develop more robust screening and vetting procedures for individuals seeking immigration benefits to reside in the United States.” USCIS said plans to “incrementally expand” the interview process to other benefit types as well.

We anticipate that the new interview workload will almost certainly lengthen wait times for all green card applications. As of June 30, USCIS was processing applications received more than six months earlier, according to a  tracking tool  on the agency’s website.
By Gabriela Ungo 28 Aug, 2017
Various news outlets have been reporting that the Trump administration is considering ending the DACA program. The information indicated that an announcement could be imminent. If the administration chooses to do so, there are different ways the program could be terminated.


One option would be to allow DACA to sunset, allowing those who presently have DACA and a work permit (with validity periods up to two years) to be protected from deportation and permitted to work until it expires. In the alternative, DACA could be brought to an end quickly and previously issued deferrals of deportation and work permits would be immediately invalidated, thus placing the nearly 800,000 DACA recipients at risk for deportation. The American Immigration Council has made available a list of tips for DACA beneficiaries to protect themselves should they have an encounter with ICE:  http://immigrationimpact.com/2017/08/25/trump-end-daca-need-know/

TAKE ACTION: Urge the President and Congress to Protect Dreamers

http://www.aila.org/takeaction#/40/thankyou

By Gabriela Ungo 15 Jun, 2017
Today marks DACA's 5th anniversary. In 5 years of DACA, over 780,000   # DREAMers   have been given a chance to work and study without the fear of deportation. Eliminating   # DACA   could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars in lost economic growth in the next decade   # SaveDACA  

En 5 años de DACA, más de 780.000 #DREAMers han podido trabajar y estudiar sin temor a la deportación. Eliminar DACA podría costarle a EEUU cientos de miles de millones en crecimiento económico en la próxima década #SaveDACA
By Gabriela Ungo 12 Jun, 2017
Congress is considering two bills that would weaken screening procedures for Custom and Border Protection (CBP) officers and agents by waiving the polygraph requirement for certain for certain law enforcement and military applicants. 

The CBP, an agency with serious corruption and integrity issues, cannot be trusted to take shortcuts by weakening hiring standards—hires that will help President Trump ramp up his deportation force. The polygraph is an integral component of CBP vetting and has prevented corrupt or corruption-prone applicants from being hired and deployed. Current DHS Inspector General John Roth warns that "[w]hile it may sound reasonable to say you could waive requirements from former military personnel because they have passed a polygraph, Border Patrol agents work in a different environment that is not as controlled as the military.” Two-thirds of applicants fail the CBP polygraph and hundreds have admitted to serious criminal activity during the screening process. Former CBP head of Internal Affairs Tomsheck confirmed that applicants have revealed engagement with drug cartels and smuggling activities during their polygraph exams.

On 6/7/2017, the House then went on to vote on the passage of H.R. 2213, which passed on a 282 to 137 vote. Customs and Border Protection has a polygraph requirement in place for a reason — to ensure that only qualified people are hired. There shouldn’t be an option to waive that requirement for law enforcement or military personnel with qualifying experience.  Urge your Senator to oppose S. 595: Boots on the Border Act of 2017 NOW!


By Gabriela Ungo 12 Jun, 2017
Today, the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban,  as well as provisions suspending the refugee program and limiting the number of refugees to 50,000 for this fiscal year.

The panel ruled that the order at issue doesn't give a rationale laying out why allowing the entry of nationals from the six targeted countries under "current protocols" would be harmful to the interests of the U.S. "We conclude that the President, in issuing the Executive Order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress," the opinion said.

The latest iteration of the order which was signed on 3/6/2017 seeks to block entry into the U.S. of nationals from the six Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, and to suspend U.S.' refugee program for 180 days.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia also ruled against the travel ban May 25. The administration has appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court. It would take a majority of the Supreme Court, at least five justices, to put the policy into effect.
By Gabriela Ungo 10 Apr, 2017
The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology. However, the H-1B program has a statutory cap of 65,000 visas regular for fiscal year and a 20,000 cap on H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

Once again, the annual H-1B cap was reached within five business days.  USCIS began accepting H-1B petitions on April 3, 2017 and, on April 7, USCIS announced that it had received more petitions than the entire H-1B cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 allows. The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not duplicate filings.

The H-1B program has also being under attack by the Trump administration: USCIS temporarily suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions stating that it could last up to 6 months. The Administration has also vowed to target the H-1B program and other employment-based visa programs to detect and deter fraud and abuse and protect U.S. workers.

We are also anticipating an increase in number of  "Requests for Evidence" (RFEs) issued by the USCIS. RFEs are not a denial or intent to deny, but a USCIS effort to gain more information about an applicant before a decision is made. In the future, expect a rise on RFEs, and over-scrutinity on each application. 
By Gabriela Ungo 16 Mar, 2017
The Trump Administration suffered a new defeat: the "revised" Muslim travel ban was once again halted by U.S. Federal Courts just hours before it was to take effect. 

Last night, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson from Hawaii issued a nationwide restraining order temporarily blocking the executive order from going into effect today.  The federal judge argued that the revised ban still discriminates on the basis of nationality and prevents Hawaii residents from receiving visits from relatives living in the six Muslim-majority countries.

U.S.  District Judge Theodore D. Chuang. Like Watson, determined that Trump's executive order was "the realization of the long-envisioned Muslim ban" and also pointed to comments made by Trump throughout his campaign. The U.S. Federal Court in Maryland, also suspended a portion of the ban that prevented visas being issued to nationals of the six countries.
By Gabriela Ungo 14 Mar, 2017
On March 6, 2017, President Trump re-issued his immigration executive order  that halts all refugee admissions for at least 120 days and suspends immigrant and non-immigrant visa adjudications banning  entry entry into the United States for nationals of six Muslim-majority countries. This new order will effective March 16, 2017. 

This executive order suspends immigrants and nonimmigrants adjudications from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen (and excludes Iraq) from entering the United States for at least 90 days. The order includes explicit language of the possibility that other countries may be added.  

The new executive order also includes a section on waivers, noting that a consular officer may decide on a “case-by-case basis” to greenlight a visa. The waiver procedure is not clear, but it has been reported that the process for getting a waiver will involve just discussing one’s case with a consular officer during a visa interview. Department of States issued a statement clarifying that people who are in the U.S. when the executive order goes into effect on Thursday March 16th, will not need a waiver to renew an expired visa later is they travel abroad. 

The "revised" version does not explicitly ban Muslims, but in practice the new restrictions will do just that for many. “Regardless of the administration’s efforts to clean up the language in this latest version of the President’s travel ban, it continues to unlawfully discriminate against people because of their religion, nationality or country of birth,” said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “The President continues to discriminate against people, including babies and children, labeling them as threats to our national security—not because of anything they have done—but instead because of where they were born.”

The States of Washington, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon renewed their effort to block President Donald Trump's revised temporary ban arguing that his executive order is the same as the first one that was halted by federal courts. On March 10, 2017, three immigrants rights groups (Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, American Immigration Council, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild) amended the nationwide class action lawsuit, Ali v. Trump ,  pending before U.S Federal Court of the Western District of Washington. The same day, a Wisconsin federal judge blocked enforcement of this executive order to prevent a processing delay with asylum petitions for the family of a Syrian refugee in the United States.


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