Yesterday, Congress passed a bill that would allow USCIS to raise the premium processing fee and also expand it to cover new immigration categories. It is imperative to understand that while this is good for the future, there are no changes right now, and it could take several months for these changes to be implemented. The changes that come about are broken down into two categories, changes to immigration benefits that currently allow for premium processing and changes to immigration benefits that currently do not allow for premium processing.
Specifically, the new law will require USCIS to, at least eventually, provide premium processing services for:
- (A) employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents of the beneficiaries of such petitions; (ie H/L/O/TN/E and their dependents)
- (B) employment-based immigrant petitions filed by or on behalf of aliens described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 203(b); (ie adding EB-1C multinational managers)
- (C) applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status; (ie change of status to F-1 student)
- (D) applications for employment authorization; and
- (E) any other immigration benefit type that the Secretary deems appropriate for premium processing.
What does this mean for benefits that already have premium?
For immigration benefits eligible for premium processing prior to 8/1/2020, the new premium processing fee will be $2,500 with the exception of H-2B and R visas which will be $1,500. We can anticipate this change being enacted fairly quickly and USCIS can just announce the fee change. Congress did not address any changes in the premium processing timeline for these benefits that already received premium process, so that remains 15 days. USCIS is intending to enact regulatory changes to premium processing to lengthen the process to be 15 business days, however, as of this article, a federal court has enjoined the new fee regulation that incorporated this timeline change. So, for now, it is still 15 calendar days.
What does this mean for benefits that will be new to premium?
One of the biggest moves of this bill was the significant expansion of the premium processing program. However, nothing is final as of today. USCIS will still have to promulgate regulations, go through the notice and comment period, and create a final rule to allow for premium processing.
The bill provides the timeframe Congress is mandating for these new premium processing benefits as well as the maximum costs:
- For multinational executives and managers under EB-1 as well as EB-2 National Interest waivers “the fee is set at an amount not greater than $2,500 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 45 days.”
- For individuals seeking a change of status to F, J, or M “the fee is set to an amount not greater than $1,750 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.”
- For those seeking to change status to be classified as a dependent, or to extend such dependent status, in the E, H, L, O, P, or R categories, “the fee is set to an amount not greater than $1,750 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.”
- For EAD applications, “the fee is set to an amount not greater than $1,500 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.”
Again, to enact these changes, Department of Homeland Security will have to go through the regulatory process, and this can take many months..
Additional Information on the Bill
The bill that passed also included some more administrative type requirements. First, USCIS will have authority to adjust these premium fees every two years. Second, the bill allows DHS to suspend the availability of premium processing ONLY if circumstances prevent the completion of processing of a significant number of such requests within the required period. Third, DHS is required to ensure premium processing requestors have direct access to status information and can communicate with the premium processing units.
Additionally, this bill requires DHS to report to congress within 6 months on a five year plan to “(1) Establish electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions for immigration benefits. (2) Accept electronic payment of fees at all filing locations. (3) Issue correspondence, including decisions, requests for evidence, and notices of intent to deny, to immigration benefit requestors electronically. (4) Improve processing times for all immigration and naturalization benefit requests.”
By: Steven Brown
Steven Brown is an attorney in the firm’s H-1B Department and represents our business clients throughout the entire H-1B, H-4, and H-4 EAD process. Additionally, Steven works with clients with Department of Labor Compliance included assistance with wage and hours investigations. Steven prides himself in being able to provide his clients with creative solutions to complex immigration problems.