As many of you are well aware, the filing period for H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2014 numerical cap begins on April 1, 2013.  USCIS currently reports that it anticipates it may receive more than 65,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions and more than 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher between April 1, 2013, and April 5, 2013.  As a result, this could be the first time since April 2008 that the H-1B cap will require a lottery.

Due to historic data regarding the number of Cap Subject petitions filed under the premium processing service, combined with the possibility that the H-1B cap will be met in the first 5 business days of the filing season, USCIS has announced a temporary adjustment to its premium processing practice. On March 15, USCIS announced that premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions, including H-1B petitions seeking an exemption from the fiscal year cap for individuals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher, will begin on April 15, 2013.  Reportedly this is to facilitate the prioritized data entry of cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing and in accordance with 8 CFR 103.7(e)(3)(ii).

USCIS will continue to accept Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, with fee, concurrently with the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, during the time period that premium processing is unavailable – from April 1 to April 14, 2013.  Petitioners are also able to upgrade a pending H-1B cap petition to premium processing after a receipt notice is issued, per usual procedures.  

All requests for premium processing received between April 1, 2013, and April 14, 2013, will be adjudicated when premium processing begins on April 15, 2013.  (Note that the Form I-797 receipt notice may indicate the date that the premium processing fee is received, but the 15-day processing period set by 8 CFR 103.7(e)(2) will not begin until April 15, 2013.)  

The 15-day processing period for premium processing service for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap, or for any other eligible classification, continues to begin on the date that the request is received.