Congress Passes Major Changes to Premium Processing
Congress has recently passed a new law which will expand USCIS’s optional premium processing service. These changes could make life considerably easier for those seeking all types of immigration benefits in the U.S.
In this article, we give you a quick review of exactly what premium processing is, and then discuss the four major changes just enacted into law. If, after reading this article, you have more questions about premium processing and the changes in the new law, we invite you to contact us at Ashoori Law. Feel free to call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.
What Is Premium Processing?
Since 2001, USCIS has charged a premium fee for faster processing of limited types of immigration petitions. Specifically, payment of the premium fee would guarantee a 15-day turnaround on certain employer petitions for immigrant and non-immigrant workers. The premium fee for the service was (as of the beginning of 2020) set at $1,440.
At the end of September 2020, however, Congress stepped in with new legislation that greatly expands the premium processing program at USCIS. This new legislation will likely have remarkable advantages for those seeking all types of immigration benefits in the U.S.
Congress Substantially Expands Premium Processing for Immigration Benefits
There are four major changes to premium processing in Congress’ new immigration legislation. They are as follows:
1. Expanding the Types of Cases Eligible for Premium Processing
As noted, before this new law, premium processing was only available for very few types of employment-based immigrant and employment-based non-immigrant petitions. Now, however, the new law allows premium processing for additional employment-based immigrant petitions including EB1C, for multi-national managers and executives; and the EB2 national interest waiver.
The demand for premium processing for those two types of petitions in particular has been high for quite some time. In fact, our law firm has often gotten questions about premium processing for those categories. So, it is very good news that they are now included in the premium processing program.
In addition to those two categories, premium processing will also be available for:
- Additional employment-based non-immigrant petitions,
- Applications to change or extend non-immigrant status, and
- Applications for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
Allowing premium processing for EADs is a tremendous benefit. USCIS used to have a roughly 90-day processing time to process EAD applications. Yet, EAD applications are filed by hundreds of thousands of people every year. In recent years, the wait time for these applications has slowed to six months or longer in some cases. Thus, allowing for premium processing of EAD applications is a great improvement.
Finally, the new law states that premium processing is available for any other immigrant benefit type that the Secretary of Homeland Security deems appropriate. What that means is that USCIS may be able to expand premium processing to any type of immigration benefit, a big change indeed.
2. Increasing the Processing Time for Premium Processing
Of course, any benefit usually comes with a downside. Here, the downside to the new legislation is that the premium processing time limits are changing. While the new law does not mention any change to the 15-day processing time for services already available under the premium processing program, it does lay out longer processing times for other types of benefits. Specifically,
- For EB1C and EB2 NIW petitions, the maximum processing time can be up to 45 days.
- For change of status to F, J, or M status, the maximum processing time can be up to 30 days.
- For change of status to E, H, L, O, P, or R status, the maximum processing time can be up to 30 days.
- For an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), the maximum processing time can be up to 30 days. (As noted above, that is a huge improvement given that wait times have lately been six months or longer.)
3. Increasing the Fee for Premium Processing
In addition to longer time limits for certain benefits, the premium processing fees will be higher overall, compared to the current $1,440 fee. Specifically,
- For those immigration benefits that were eligible for premium processing before August 1, 2020, the premium processing fee will now be $2,500 (except H-2B or R petitions will have a $1,500 fee).
- The fee for EB1C and EB2 petitions shall not be greater than $2,500.
- The fee for change of status to F, J, and M status shall not be greater than $1,750.
- The fee for change of status to E, H, L, O, P, and R status shall also not be greater than $1,750.
4. Some Additional Positive Changes in the New Law
The new law was written in a way to encourage USCIS to update and improve services overall. To that end, the new law requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to report to Congress in the next six months with USCIS’s five-year plan to do the following:
- Establish electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions for immigration benefits
- Accept electronic payment of fees at all filing locations.
- Issue correspondence electronically including USCIS decisions, Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intention to Deny (NOIDs).
- Improve processing times for all immigration benefits.
In addition, the new law gives USCIS greater flexibility on how it chooses to spend the money it takes in as a result of the premium processing fees.
When Will These Changes Go into Effect?
While the changes to premium processing discussed above have been enacted into law, it still takes some time for these changes to actually get implemented. USCIS needs to develop policies and procedures in order to adopt all of the changes outlined in the new law. We’ll have to wait and see when USCIS announces that it is ready to implement the new law fully.
That said, all of the changes discussed above have the potential to significantly improve USCIS’s processes and a person’s ability to obtain timely immigration benefits.
Experienced Immigration Attorneys at Ashoori Law Can Help You Use Premium Processing for Your Immigration Application
My name is Michael Ashoori and I'm a U.S. immigration lawyer and the founder of Ashoori Law. As an immigration lawyer, I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States. If you have any questions, feel free to schedule a free consultation by clicking this link.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.