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UNITED STATES: USCIS Tasked with Expansion of Premium Processing [UPDATED 19 Oct 2020]
October 19, 2020
On 30 September 2020, the US Senate passed and the president signed H.R. 8337 to keep the US government operational until 11 December 2020, maintaining vital immigration programs such as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, E-Verify, Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors and non-minister religious workers programs.
[UPDATE] Effective 19 October, USCIS began collecting increased fees for premium processing requests for H-1B, L-1, O-1 and TN visa applications. Filing fees will increase from USD 1440 to USD 2500 for benefit requests that are already eligible for premium processing services, except for H-2B and R-1 petitions. H-2B and R-1 petitions will see an increased premium processing filing fee from USD 1440 to USD 1500.
The new filing fee applies to all case types for which premium processing is currently available. USCIS has decided not to expand premium processing to other case types at this time.
Expansion of Premium Processing
The legislation also adds additional options for premium processing of certain types of petitions that are filed with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS is permitted to authorize premium processing for any category it deems appropriate. Congress is now requiring USCIS to increase the premium processing fees and to expand it more broadly to additional employment-based categories including EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3; applications to change or extend non-immigrant visa status; and applications for employment authorization (EADs). EB-5 is not included in the legislation.
In addition to adding new benefit types that are eligible for premium processing, the law now mandates that USCIS ensure that premium processing applicants have direct and reliable access to current case status information as well as the ability to communicate with the premium processing units at each service center or office that provides premium processing services.
Increased Premium Processing Fees
This legislation provides for a USD 2500 premium processing fee for most applications filed before 1 August 2020 (for cases types that have already been eligible for premium processing).
The timelines for specific types of filings vary between 15 to 45 days under premium processing. USCIS is tasked with going through the regulatory process to come up with the fees and any additional timelines on a going-forward basis.
Within the following parameters, USCIS may proceed without new regulation. Fee amounts greater than these would require new regulations:
- For EB-1C multinational manager petitions and EB-2 petitions seeking a national interest waiver, a fee not greater than USD 2500, with an adjudication timeframe not greater than 45 days.
- For applications for change of nonimmigrant status to F, J, or M, a fee not greater than USD 1750, with an adjudication timeframe not greater than 30 days.
- For applications to extend or change nonimmigrant status for those seeking E, H, L, O, P, or R dependent status, a fee not greater than USD 1750, with an adjudication timeframe not greater than 30 days.
- For an application for employment authorization, a fee not greater than USD 1500, with an adjudication time not greater than 30 days.
USCIS has not yet clarified how or when it will implement the law and begin collecting the new and increased premium processing fees.