Since it began in 2001, the premium processing service has been a major relief to the U.S. work visa petitioners and beneficiary, especially the H-1B applicants. This optional, but highly beneficial service allows visa applicants to expedite their application processing provided they meet the eligibility requirements.
What is an H-1B Visa?
The H-1B category is a temporary employment-based visa for foreign nationals who wish to perform specialized services in different subcategories. Due to its relatively low requirements, it is the most popular nonimmigrant work visa in the United States. You may apply for an H-1B visa under any of these three subcategories:
- H-1B: Specialty Occupations;
- H-1B2: Department of Defense (DOD) Cooperative Research and Development Project; or
- H-1B3: Fashion Model
What is Premium Processing?
In general terms, premium processing for a visa application is a unique service that provides expedited processing for certain work-based petitions and applications. The H-1B visa, just like most employment-based petitions, requires that you have a job offer in the United States in any of the three subcategories. You must also meet the eligibility criteria for the visa. After giving you a job offer, your prospective U.S. employer will also need to sponsor your visa by following the guidelines below:
Department of Labor Certification
Your prospective employer will begin the process by filing an ETA 9035, Labor Condition Application (LCA) to apply for and receive the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) certification. This DOL process applies to the specialty occupation and fashion model subcategories.
I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
Once the DOL certification is approved, the petitioner will proceed by filing an I-129. The form must be completed, signed, and submitted along with the filing fee and related supporting evidence. The approved DOL-certified LCA must be submitted along with the I-129 petition.
H-1B Visa Application
Once the above processes have been completed and approved, you (the beneficiary) can now apply for an H-1B visa with the U.S. Department of States (DOS) at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your country of residence. The processing for all these different stages usually takes several months to complete.
When is the H-1B Premium Processing Service Needed?
H-1B visa petitioners and applicants usually choose to use the premium processing services when they need to expedite the process and cannot afford to wait for the long H-1B processing time. It has a different filing fee, which must be paid when submitting your petition. The USCIS guarantees 15 calendar day processing time to the premium processing petitioners or applicants.
If the request isn’t granted after the 15 days, a refund of the filing fee will be made. In a situation where the application requires the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent is denied, the USCIS will notify the petitioner. In this case, a new 15 calendar day period will begin once the USCIS receives a complete response to the request for evidence.
Who is Eligible to File for the H-1B Premium Processing Service?
The H-1B premium processing service is filed by an employer on behalf of an alien visa beneficiary. The exception you are filing applying for an H-1B visa as an entrepreneur, in which you will set up your own company with a board of directors or CEO and then have the company sponsor your H-1B petition. In all other cases, only your employer can file. The USCIS also allows the attorney or representative who has filed a G-28 notice of appearance on behalf of the employer to request for this service.
Due to the annual numerical restrictions on the H-1B visa, it is recommended that the petitioner verify whether a cap applied to the chosen category has been met before filing for premium processing. This is because filing a premium processing application does not excuse beneficiaries from the cap.
Keep this in mind, because if your petition is subjected to the H-1B cap, you will be restricted to certain dates for filing. You will only be able to file during the first week of April and will only be able to obtain your H-1B on October 1st. This means that you will need to wait through this six-month period even if you use premium processing to expedite your petition’s processing time.
How to Request for Premium Processing Service
An H-1B petitioner, attorney, or representative must complete an I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. This form may be filed concurrently with the I-129 or filed separately. A concurrent petition may be filed with the service center stated as the appropriate location on the form instructions. However, if you have already filed your I-129 and now wish to request for a premium processing service separately, you will need to file your I-907 with the visa service center where the I-129 is currently pending.
The request must be submitted with a copy of the I-797, Receipt Notice for the I-129. If your petition has been transferred to another service center by the USCIS and you were sent a transfer notice, it is very important to file your I-907 with the service center along with the transfer notice. The USCIS may reject your premium processing request if you file your I-907 at an office that doesn’t have geographic jurisdiction over the underlying petition.
The USCIS has a special phone number and email address for each of the service centers, which is always made available to premium processing service users to communicate with the officers in charge. Additionally, they will also collect your contact information so that you can be sent an automatic email notification of the receipt and/or approval of your petition.
What is the Filing Fee for H-1B Premium Processing?
The USCIS H-1B visa filing fees are paid by the employer, but some can be paid by the beneficiary if good reasoning is stated. Currently, there are four major components of the fees if you are using the premium processing service. They are as follows:
- H-1B Premium Processing Service fee – $1,440.
- Fraud Prevention and Detection fee – $500
- I-129 Petition Filing Fee – $460
- Public Law 114 – 113 Fee: $4,000 (This is applicable to organizations that have upwards of 50 employees with more than half of H-1B or L-1 status).
Other optional fees include immigration attorney fees and certain charges at the embassy or consulate. These charges vary widely depending on your choice of attorney and the charges applicable at the embassy.
H-1B Visa Requirements
An H-1B visa applicant must have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in order to qualify. The annual total quota for this H-1B visa category is 65,000 with an additional 20,000 H-1B visas for qualified applicants who have a master’s degree from the United States. Each of the three subcategories has specified requirements as follows:
H-1B: Specialty Occupations
The H-1B visa for specialty occupations requires practical and theoretical expertise in different fields such as finance, IT, accounting, mathematics, medicine, and science. Your job under this subcategory must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
- The minimum entry requirement for the position is a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent
- The required degree for the position is common in the industry, or the job is so unique or complex that it can be done only be a bachelor’s degree holder
- The employer normally requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent for the job
- The nature of the tasks for the position is so specialized that required knowledge to carry them out requires a bachelor’s degree
H-1B2: DOD Research and Development Worker
For this subcategory, your job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify for a DOD cooperative research and development project:
- The project is provided for under a government-to-government agreement managed by the U.S. Department of Defense
- A minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent is required to perform the duties.
H-1B3: Fashion Model
In order to qualify for this subcategory, you will need to show that:
- The services or position you are applying for require a prominent fashion model.
- As an applicant, you are a fashion model of extraordinary ability and merit.
To qualify as an applicant for either of H-1B or H-1B2 position, you must also meet one of the following criteria:
- Have completed a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher degree that is required for the position from an accredited university or college
- Have an equivalent foreign degree required for the position
- Hold an unrestricted state registration, license, or certification as an authorization to fully practice within the industry and be engaged in that job position in the state of intended employment
- Have training, education, or progressive experience in the specific field that is equivalent to the completion of the required degree.
What Is the H-1B Visa Validity Period?
The H-1B nonimmigrant visa has an initial three-year period of stay from your employment start date. Just like most other nonimmigrant employment visas, you may extend the visa after the initial three years. However, in many cases, the total period of stay cannot go beyond six years. This means you can only have a maximum of three years extension after the first approval.
The exception to this would be if you had an approved I-140 filed with the USCIS. In this case, you may be able to apply for an extension beyond the typical six-year maximum.
If your employer terminates your employment before the end of your authorized period of stay, they will be liable for the reasonable costs and your return transportation. But if you choose to resign your position voluntarily, your employer will not be liable in any way.
Can an H-1B Holder Apply for a Green Card?
You can apply for and acquire a green card by adjusting your status from an H-1B nonimmigrant to a permanent resident. This is one of the advantages of the H-1B visa, particularly if you still want to remain in the United States after the expiration of your six-year period of stay.
In this case, you must have a U.S. employer who is willing and qualified to sponsor your green card. The employer will need to offer you a job position that qualifies under an employment-based green card category, complete PERM Labor Certification process, and also file an I-140 Immigration Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf.
You may run out your total six years stay while you wait for your green card. As previously mentioned, if you are faced with this scenario, you can request an extension of your H-1B in one-year increments. This will allow you to maintain a lawful nonimmigrant status while you wait for your green card.
H-1B Premium Processing Suspension
While premium processing is advantageous in many cases when it comes to H-1B visas, it is not a guaranteed service. In order to allow for the processing of H-1B petitions that did not opt for premium processing, the USCIS may suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions for a season. This has happened several times over the past several years, so be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest H-1B news to see if premium processing will be available for your petition.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
H-1B premium processing is a highly sought-after immigration service. Filing your petition improperly could lead to delay, denial, or rejection. This is why it is essential to seek immigration legal help from an experienced H-1B premium processing attorney.
VisaNation Law Group has a team of highly qualified H-1B attorneys with an excellent track record of helping applicants obtain their visas in record time with premium processing service. They will help you file your petition and ensure all required documents are included to avoid delays or Requests for Evidence (RFEs). They will also guide you through each of the stages involved. You can schedule a consultation with one of VisaNation Law Group’s H-1B experts today by filling out this contact form.