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Premium Processing, Routine Visa Services Suspended Amid COVID-19

March 23, 2020

As of March 20, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services suspended the Premium Processing service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions, and the US Department of State suspended routine, nonemergency visa services globally as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Suspension of Premium Processing

The suspension applies to all petitions requesting Premium Processing that were mailed before March 20 but not yet accepted, as well as to all petitions filed on March 20. Pursuant to this suspension, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will reject any Form I-907 requesting Premium Processing and return the $1,440 filing fee.

The suspension of Premium Processing covers petitions filed for the following nonimmigrant and immigrant classifications:

  • E-1 and E-2
  • H-1B, H-2B, and H-3
  • L-1A, L-1B, and blanket L petitions
  • O-1 and O-2
  • P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, and P-3S
  • Q-1
  • R-1
  • TN-1 and TN-2
  • I-140 EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3

As a result of this suspension, adjudication of nonimmigrant petitions such as H-1B, O-1, and L-1, including requests for extension of stay and change of employer, is likely to take between two and eight months, assuming the service is not resumed within the next few months.

Immigrant petitions filed pursuant to Form I-140 will also likely be adjudicated in a similar timeframe. This suspension will impact eligibility to request three-year H-1B extensions based on an approved Form I-140, as the timeframe to file such H-1B petitions will be extended significantly due to the lengthier processing time of the benefit-granting I-140 petition. Individuals will continue to be eligible to request one-year H-1B extensions based on the filing of a labor certification application at least 365 days before the end of the sixth year in H-1B status.

If and when Premium Processing resumes, it should be possible to “upgrade” pending cases to Premium Processing, as has been the case after past suspensions.

Suspension of Routine Visa Services

The suspension of routine visa services has been implemented on a global basis, covering all US embassies and consulates. All nonemergency immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments will be cancelled as of March 20. Emergency visa services will be provided based on availability of resources.

The cancellation of visa appointments does not invalidate previously paid Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees. All payments will remain valid, and can be used to schedule a visa appointment in the same country within one year of payment.

As a result of this suspension, barring an emergency situation, it is unlikely that individuals abroad who require a visa to travel to the United States will be able to obtain one in a timely manner.

Additional Resources

For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. We also have launched a resource page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts.  

For additional government-related guidance, learn more about our Washington strategic government relations and counseling practice.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this alert, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers:

Washington, DC
Shannon A. Donnelly
Eleanor Pelta
Eric S. Bord

Miami
Laura C. Garvin

San Francisco
A. James Vázquez-Azpiri
Christina M. Gonzaga