After being passed by Congress and signed by the President in the wee hours of October 1, 2020, a new law will make USCIS’s Premium Processing service more widely available, potentially benefiting employers and individuals who have previously been subject to long and unpredictable processing times for USCIS benefits. Premium Processing services allow a petitioner to pay an additional fee and receive faster processing of the petition within a guaranteed timeframe.
Under the new law, USCIS will make Premium Processing available for nearly all employment-based immigration petitions, employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and petitions of their dependents, and petitions for an extension or change of visa status. In particular, those filing certain applications for employment authorization documents (commonly known as “EADs”) and dependents of employment based visa-holders who apply for changes or extensions of status could benefit from drastically shorter processing timeframes (under 30 days instead of, in some cases, over 6 months) though the costs may be steep (potentially up to $1,750 or $2,500 just for the premium processing fee, depending on the category). The legislation opens up the possibility that almost all USCIS benefits could be eligible for premium processing in the future, stating that premium processing service may be expanded to include “any other immigration benefit type that the Secretary deems appropriate for premium processing.”
According to the legislation, the Premium Processing fee on visas and immigration petitions where it was already available, such as H-1Bs, EB-1s, and EB-2s, will be raised from $1,440 up to a maximum of $2500 (with limited exceptions). The new law does not spell out the exact fees nor the time frames for the new premium processing services, but the law does establish the maximum fee and maximum timeframe USCIS may set. Importantly, USCIS has not announced when the new premium processing services will be available.
In related news, USCIS had previously announced a comprehensive revision of its fee structure (nearly doubling the total cost of some services) which was supposed to be effective on October 2, 2020. The new fee structure included a change in premium processing time from 15 CALENDAR days to 15 BUSINESS days. However, a federal court decision on September 29, 2020 prevents USCIS from implementing these changes. Accordingly, the announced fee changes did not go into effect on October 2, 2020.
We will continue to monitor the implementation of this new legislation, as well as the status of changes to USCIS fees, in the interest of providing our clients with the most effective immigration strategies under current circumstances.
Immigration – The Firm represents businesses, institutions of higher learning, and individuals with respect to immigration-related matters, including obtaining visitor visas, temporary and permanent work visas, consular processing of visas, obtaining citizenship, advising employers on employment sanctions issues, and defending employers faced with INS I-9 audits and investigations.