USCIS Continues Premium Processing Expansion Implementation

Since its introduction in 2001, the Premium Processing service offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has seen notable changes. Premium Processing was originally introduced as an option for certain immigration benefit applicants and petitioners to request expedited 15-day processing for an additional fee. The fee to request Premium Processing was originally set at $1,000 but has increased several times since the program’s inception, and was most recently elevated to $2,500.

On March 30, 2022, USCIS published a final rule outlining numerous changes to the Premium Processing service, including an expansion of eligible petition and application categories. The Implementation of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act outlines the additional categories for which Premium Processing will be available and a phased implementation plan. Prior to the new rule, only the following were eligible for Premium Processing:

Form Applications Previously Eligible for Premium Processing Fee Time Frame

EB-1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability (EB-1A); EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers (EB-1B);

EB-2 Members of the Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability, not seeking NIW; EB-3 Skilled Workers;

EB-3 Professionals;

EB-3 Workers other than Skilled Workers and Professionals

$2500 15 days
I-129 E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, Q-1, TN-1, TN-2
$2500 15 days
I-129 R-1 and H-2B $1500

15 days

Under the new rule, USCIS added a 45-day Premium Processing option for petitions requesting EB-1 immigrant classification as a Multinational Executive or Manager (“MEM”) as well as petitions requesting EB-2 immigration classification with a National Interest Waiver (“NIW”). Additionally, USCIS announced plans to expand Premium Processing to certain I-539 and I-765 applications. The Premium Processing classifications for which Premium Processing will be available under the new rule are summarized as follows:

Form Eligible Application Fee Time Frame

EB-1 – Multinational Executive or Manager

EB-2 – Members of the Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability Seeking a National Interest Waiver

Change of Status Request to: F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, or M-2

$2500 45 days
I-539 (Proposed) Change of Status to or Extension of Stay in: E-1, E-2, E-3, H-4, L-2, O-3, P-4, or R-2 $2500 30 days
I-765 (Proposed) Request for Employment Authorization $1500 30 days

As part of the phased implementation, USCIS is first making Premium Processing available to long-pending MEM and EB-2 NIW petitions. The third phase of implementation, which went into effect on September 15, 2022, permits Premium Processing for MEM petitions filed on or before January 1, 2022 and EB-2 NIW petitions filed on or before February 1, 2022. USCIS anticipates accepting Premium Processing requests of Form I-539 for F–1, F–2, J–1, J–2, M–1 and M–2 applicants in the next year. Premium Processing for eligible I-765 applications is expected to begin by FY 2025.

Premium Processing eligibility for MEM and EB-2 NIW petitions is a welcome change for employers, given typical adjudication timelines for both types of petitions have regularly eclipsed eight months in recent years. It remains to be seen whether the Premium Processing expansion will negatively affect adjudication timeframes for immigration benefits filed under regular processing. Processing times have slowed dramatically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020; although, USCIS has indicated it is working to return to more efficient processing timeframes. In the interim, employers seeking to sponsor foreign national workers for immigration benefits should work closely with immigration counsel to avoid potential business interruptions caused by processing delays.

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