October 23, 2017 Policy Memorandum "Rescission of Guidance Regarding Deference to Prior Determinations of Eligibility in the Adjudication of Petitions for Extension of Nonimmigrant Status" is available at USCIS webportal.
As a result, USCIS made it more difficult for companies to renew H-1B visas for foreign professionals (workers) who work in specialty occupations. Previously, when it was time to renew an H-1B employee’s status, the USCIS gave deference to past H-1B approval decisions. This enabled H-1B visa holders to obtain extensions in a fast and straightforward manner. USCIS recently rescinded (canceled) their old policy memorandum, and now H-1B visa holders who apply for extensions must again prove eligibility as though they are seeking H-1B visas for the first time.
This policy change will impose greater uncertainty, loss of foreign talent (who may choose to migrate to Canada instead), higher costs and delays to companies who rely on foreign talent.
USCIS is directing officers to use the same amount of scrutiny for initial and extension requests, and indicating that the new guidance applies to a variety of employment visas, not just H-1B.
It is expected that employers will be receiving many detailed Requests for Evidence (“RFE”) when H-1B extension requests are filed. These RFEs will increase the administrative and legal burden on employers seeking H-1B visas, and increase the costs.
Effective October 1, 2017, USCIS also imposed a new rule requiring in-person interviews with all employment-based immigrant visa applicants, including spouses and children, which will burden local USCIS offices and increase wait time for all green card categories waiting for an adjustment of status interview.
H-1B visas are valid for a total of six years and are usually issued in three-year increments. To prepare for the new renewal process, H-1B employers should initiate the renewal process far enough in advance to secure an extension before an H-1B employee’s status expires.
USCIS October 23, 2017 memo.