Immigration Update: Regulation to Expand USCIS Premium Processing Program Service

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses some exciting news. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has submitted for federal review, a final regulation that if passed would expand premium processing services to additional categories of immigrants. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While the rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register, it has the potential to substantially improve processing times for more categories of immigrants that have been waiting extended periods of time for their applications to be approved during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this post, we break down exactly who may benefit from this new regulation and what fees might apply once the rule becomes final.

Want to know more? Just keep on watching.


Overview


Many have been eagerly awaiting news regarding the expansion of premium processing services and it seems the time has almost come. For those who may be wondering, premium processing service is a special type of fee-based service offered by USCIS that allows for expedited processing of certain Form I-129, Petitions for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker. With this service, applicants can pay an additional fee and submit Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to guarantee the adjudication of their applications within 15 calendar days.

The current categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and the required filing fees are as follows:

  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification.
  • $1,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification.
  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant visa classification.

Outside of the above categories of visa applicants, premium processing service has not been made available to other applicants. But this may all be about to change.

While we are still awaiting the rule’s official publication in the Federal Register to study its complete details, we know that the rule will identify additional categories of applicants who can request premium processing service and will provide in detail the processing times, and associated fees for each type of applicant.


When will the OMB clear the rule?


Generally, the OMB is given 90 days to review the USCIS rule, however additional time could be taken to fully approve the rule. Once the OMB provides clearance, the rule will be published in the Federal Register, and an advance copy will appear with the complete details of the premium processing expansion.


Why was this rule proposed in the first place?


The measure to expand premium processing service was first introduced with the passage of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, which was signed into law on October 1, 2020.

As our readers will be aware, this piece of legislation immediately increased the existing premium processing fee from $1,440 to $2,500.  The legislation also called for USCIS to implement a permanent expansion of premium processing to include additional immigration applications and petitions such as: applications for employment authorization (Form I-765) and applications to change or extend status for the dependents of H-1B, L-1 and other principal nonimmigrants (Form I-539).

The legislation proposed the following fees for the expansion of premium processing services, however USCIS has not yet implemented these changes:

  • $2,500 for most Form I-140 applicants requesting EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 petitions, with guaranteed processing of 15 calendar days
  • No more than $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1 Multinational Manager, Form I-140 EB-2 National Interest Waiver, and Form I-140 EB-2 Physician, with guaranteed processing of 45 days
  • $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions, with guaranteed processing of 15 calendar days
  • No more than $1,750 if you are filing Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status to F, J, or M, with guaranteed processing of 30 days
  • No more than $1,750 if you are filing Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status for E, H, L, O, P, and R dependents with guaranteed processing of 30 days
  • No more than $1,500 if you are filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, with guaranteed processing of 30 days.

USCIS has expanded premium processing service but only for E-3 petitions and no further action has yet been taken to expand the service to additional visa categories.

Interestingly, the Stopgap Act also strictly prohibited the suspension of premium processing services, except where USCIS determines that it cannot complete a “significant number” of premium requests within the required time period. Even in such cases, the legislation requires USCIS to provide applicants with “direct and reliable” access to premium case status information and the ability to communicate with premium processing units at USCIS Service Centers.


What happens next?


Our office will be closely tracking the Federal Register and will report on the details of the final rule once the publication has been released. To be the first to be notified of these updates please be sure to subscribe to our mailing list.


Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-569-1768 or call 619-819-9204.


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Immigration Update: Regulation to Expand USCIS Premium Processing Program Service