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H-1B premium processing is now a two-phase approach

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is instituting a two-phase process for the premium processing of H-1B petitions.

The USCIS is implementing this approach for the fiscal year 2020 cap season in response to public demand.

About H-1B visas

Every fiscal year beginning on April 1, 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas are available. Of these, there are 6,800 for applicants from Singapore and Chile. The remaining 58,200 go into the general pool. There are always more than enough applications, and the agency usually distributes the available visas within the first few days in April.

Premium processing

This year, premium processing for the fiscal year 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners who wish to change their status on Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, will begin on May 20. In years past, high demand required that the USCIS suspend processing when capacity was reached. To comply with public demand, the agency has now instituted a two-phase approach. The first phase is for H-1B petitioners who request a status change, and the second phase targets all other fiscal year 2020 cap-subject petitions.


Those who hold a master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher learning in the U.S. may be able to qualify for an exemption under the “Master’s Cap.” Additionally, those who have had H-1B status previously may qualify for a new H-1B visa without having to conform to cap requirements if they meet certain criteria.

Kinds of work

Foreign nationals who wish to work in the United States must have an H-1B temporary work visa. Visa holders may qualify for many different professions, including accounting, biotechnology, education, engineering, medicine, law and science. The H-1B visa allows the holder to work in his or her chosen field for a period of three years and extend for another three years. Following the extension period, the H-1B visa holder may wish to pursue permanent United States residency. Keep in mind that USCIS regulations are subject to periodic adjustment. For example, the premium processing, two-phase approach may affect people who are among those interested in changing H-1B status.

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