Since Matter of Simeio Soutions, LLC, 26 I&N Dec. 542 (AAO 2015), requires employers to file an H-1B amendment in almost every instance of an employee changing job locations, the USCIS has been flooded with H-1B amendments and extensions. In effect, the processing times for all H-1B petitions have been dramatically impacted resulting in much longer processing times. Current processing times for regularly filed H-1B petition extensions is averaging at least 6 months. In order to alleviate the backlog, the USCIS has transferred most H-1B petition extensions to the Nebraska Service Center. However, we have yet to see much speedier processing times. Although a timely filed H-1B petition extension for an employee who in valid status brings an automatic 240 day extension of employment authorization, the lengthy processing times can be problematic when the employee has a driver license expiring on the date of the current H-1B petition; and, if the employee needs to travel internationally during the 240 day extension period. Many states, including California, refuse to recognize the 240 day automatic extension and insist on an H-1B petition extension approval to issue a driver license extension. Similarly, an approval is also necessary if an employee needs to apply for a new H-1B visa to enter the US after foreign travel.
Paying the optional premium processing fee is now a necessity in the majority of H-1B petition extensions, even for employers who plan ahead and file as soon as the extension filing window opens 6 months prior to the expiration date. This results in an additional $1,225 in already pricey H-1B filing fees.