October 8, 2020

U.S.: Premium Processing Option Expanded to Include Additional Petition Categories, Fees Increase

The “Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act,” a temporary spending bill, has been passed by the U.S Congress and signed by the President. It is intended to help fund the government until the end of 2020, while Congress finalizes its 2021 federal budget. Among other things, the bill includes measures impacting immigration operations, including extending four programs that were set to expire, increasing the premium processing fees and extending premium processing services to some other types of cases for which it was not previously available.

What has changed?

Under the bill, the following expiring immigration programs will now be extended through to December 11, 2020:

    • E-Verify
    • EB-5 Regional Center Program
    • Conrad 30 Program for foreign medical graduates who will work in areas of the United States that are underserved by physicians
    • Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker permanent residence program

Additionally, the bill requires the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to permanently expand the premium processing option to many other employment-based immigration case types. Previously, the service was only applicable to certain I-129 non-immigrant worker petitions and Form I-140 immigrant worker petitions. With the expansion of services, the fees for the premium processing option for previously eligible cases has increased from $1,440 to $2,500.

The introduction of the new law will mean that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) authority to suspend premium processing services will only be permitted when they cannot complete a “significant number” of premium requests within the allotted time period. DHS will also be required to provide applicants with “direct and reliable” access to their case status information and expand communication with premium processing units at the USCIS service centers – something which is currently extremely limited.

While the law is effective immediately, it is expected to take several weeks for USCIS to be able to implement it and start accepting any cases that are newly eligible for premium processing. It is also not yet certain what the exact fees for the premium processing will be on the new cases of eligible petitions, however some upper limit caps and details around timing have been provided:

    • H-1B, L-1, O-1, TN, and other non-immigrant petitions filed on I-129: $2,500. Timing for adjudication remains at 15 calendar days.
    • I-140 petitions for most case types: $2,500. Timing for adjudication remains at 15 calendar days.
    • NEW: I-539 applications for dependents: upper limit of $1,750. Timing for adjudication will be 30 days.
    • NEW: I-140 for Multinational Managers and National Interest Waiver: upper limit of $2,500. Timing for adjudication will be 45 days.
    • NEW: EAD card applications: upper limit of $1,500. Timing for adjudication will be 30 days.

What you need to do

For more information on the premium process, including eligible categories of petitions and the associated fees, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at immigration@sterlinglexicon.com.

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