The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published its final rule on expanding premium processing, which changes an additional fee to expedite the application process. This rule organizes multiple changes and outlines when and how premium processing updates will be implemented. The goal is to reduce backlogs, budget shortfalls and increased processing times. As of now:
Immigrant Petition for Alien Work: Form I-140 addresses the employment-based first preference multinational executive or manager (EB-1C) category and members of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability. The employment-based second preference is seeking a National Interest Waiver (EB-2 NIW). The premium processing fee for these three categories will be $2,500. The USCIS will decide the case within 45 calendar days, which is longer than the normal 15 days for other types of premium processing. Normal, non-premium I-140 processing times can be over a year in some cases.
Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status: Form I-539 for changes to academic students (F1), exchange visitor (J-1) or vocational student (M-1) statuses. The premium processing fees will be $1,750 for processing within 30 days.
Application for Employment Authorization: The Department of Homeland Security indicated that it will prioritize premium processing of employment authorization for students applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT) and for J-2 dependents of J-1 Exchange Visitors beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Others who require an Employment Authorization Document may have to wait until FY 2025, so that USCIS has sufficient time to gather revenue to cover potential costs without adversely affecting the processing time for other benefits. The premium processing fee will be $1,500 for processing within 30 days.
Updates on RFE and NOIDS
The final rule regarding Request for Further Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) will pause the premium processing timeframes outlined above. Once the USCIS receives the requested evidence, the clock starts over. If it does not adjudicate the petition on time (with the pause), the USCIS will refund the fee for premium processing but still process the case. If the USCIS opens a fraud or misrepresentation investigation, it will not refund the fee.
Other key factors that affect the expansion of premium processing
While these changes are designed to speed up premium processing, applicants should note the following:
- Electronic Request of Premium Processing (Form I-907) is required.
- USCIS reserve the discretion to change or state implementation dates for premium processing.
- USCIS reserves the discretion to state which applications are eligible for premium processing, the deadlines, and any applicable conditions.
Change for the better
The USCIS acknowledges that the expansion could impact the processing of other applications. Still, it will only roll out premium processing if it believes that it will not negatively impact pending cases. This is an improvement over the past application process, but there will likely be adjustments as these changes are implemented. In any event, these are very welcome changes that we are eager to see implemented.