Extensive H1B Processing Delays Due to Increased H1B Amendment Filings11 Feb 2016
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has acknowledged noticeable delays in processing H1B petitions. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) raised concerns over these delays in a call with USCIS Service Center Operations (SCOPS) on February 3, 2016. A prime cause of the delays appears to be the large number of H1B amendments being filed in the wake of the policy change prompted by Matter of Simeio Solutions.
H1B Amendments Required for Most Worksite Changes
As discussed in USCIS Sets Aug 19th Deadline to File H1B Amendments for Employee Relocation (03.Jun.2015), the employer must file an amendment in most situations in which an H1B worker is moved to a location not listed in the existing approved H1B petition. This has led to a foreseeable influx in H1B amendments filings – and corresponding processing delays – at both the California Service Center (CSC) and the Vermont Service Center (VSC).
Increased Premium Processing Requests
In addition to the overall increase in volume of H1B petitions, the USCIS also reports an upsurge in the number of premium processing requests. This, of course, is a circular problem. As standard processing times increase, more petitioners tend to opt for premium processing. And, as USCIS officers give priority to premium processing cases, this typically creates further delays for the regular processing filings.
Caution: 240-Day Work Authorization Limit
Generally speaking, the beneficiary of a timely filed H1B extension with the same employer may continue to work for up to 240 days while the petition is pending. Normally, this 240-day limit is sufficient to receive a decision on the petition. With processing times now extending well beyond six months, however, the 240-day limit is of greater concern.
USCIS Must Dramatically Improve its Processing Time
The number of petitions being filed will undoubtedly skyrocket during the first week of April 2016, as it is expected that over 200,000 H1B cap cases will be filed for the fiscal year 2017 H1B cap. This threatens to further exacerbate these long processing times. It remains to be seen how long it will take before the USCIS is able to get this backlog under control.
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