This premium processing expansion was included in Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, signed into law on October 1, 2020. The law resulted in an immediate increase in the base fee for the existing program, to $2,500 from $1,440. It also required USCIS to implement a permanent expansion of premium processing to include additional immigration applications and petitions. 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) – which are currently facing significant backlogs – were included in this list. In February 2021, USCIS expanded premium service to E-3 petitions, but since then, the agency has not initiated expansion to any other case types.
The October 2020 law also limits USCIS’s ability to suspend premium processing, permitting suspensions only where the agency cannot complete a “significant number” of premium requests within the required time period. Further, it requires the agency to provide petitioners and applicants with “direct and reliable” access to premium case status information and the ability to communicate with premium processing units at USCIS Service Centers.
Expansion of USCIS premium processing
Currently, premium processing is limited to certain Form I-129 nonimmigrant worker petitions and certain Form I-140 immigrant worker petitions, with a 15-day adjudication timeframe.
The revised fee schedule and timeframes set forth by the October 2020 legislation are as follows:
|Case Type||Processing Timeline||Premium Processing Fee|
|Most Form I-140 EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 petitions||15 calendar days (current)||$2,500|
|Form I-140 EB-1 Multinational Manager |
Form I-140 EB-2 National Interest Waiver
Form I-140 EB-2 Physician
|45 days||Not greater than $2,500|
|Form I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions||15 calendar days (current)||$2,500|
|Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status to F, J or M||30 days||Not greater than $1,750|
|Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status for E, H, L, O, P and R Dependents||30 days||Not greater than $1,750|
|Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization||30 days||Not greater than $1,500|
The OMB has 90 days to review the USCIS rule, but could take less or more time, depending on the circumstances. After OMB clearance, the rule will be published in the Federal Register. An advance copy of the rule should be released just prior to publication, which will set forth the details of the expansion.
What it means
There is no immediate change to the premium processing program at this time. The existing premium program for certain I-129 and I-140 petitions remains available.