Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) have numerous roles in development and disease, and one of the prominent roles is to regulate gene expression. A vast number of circular RNAs (circRNAs) have been identified, and some have been shown to function as microRNA sponges in animal cells. Here, we report a class of circRNAs associated with RNA polymerase II in human cells. In these circRNAs, exons are circularized with introns 'retained' between exons; we term them exon-intron circRNAs or EIciRNAs. EIciRNAs predominantly localize in the nucleus, interact with U1 snRNP and promote transcription of their parental genes. Our findings reveal a new role for circRNAs in regulating gene expression in the nucleus, in which EIciRNAs enhance the expression of their parental genes in cis, and highlight a regulatory strategy for transcriptional control via specific RNA-RNA interaction between U1 snRNA and EIciRNAs.