U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted its new premium processing regulation for public inspection today, unveiling a plan to make additional benefit categories eligible for the service in the coming months and years.

Key Points:

  • Benefit Categories. The following benefit categories will be eligible for premium processing under the new rule.
    • Form I-140 for EB-1 multinational executive or manager and EB-2 advanced degree or exceptional ability seeking national interest waiver (NIW). The premium processing fee for this category will be $2,500; the processing time frame will be 45 days.
    • Form I-539 change of status to F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, or M-2 NIV status, or change of status to or extension of stay in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-4, L-2, O-3, P-4, R-2 NIV status. The fee for this category will be $1,750; the processing time frame will be 30 days.
    • Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application. The fee will be $1,500; the processing time frame will be 30 days.
  • Implementation. The regulation is expected to take effect on May 31, but USCIS will gradually phase in the service for the new request types. USCIS plans to expand premium processing to the two I-140 classifications and certain Form I-539 and I-765 categories this fiscal year. The agency estimates it will not be able to expand to the additional Form I-539 and I-765 categories until FY 2025. USCIS will post announcements on its website about the availability of premium processing as it becomes available for newly designated immigration benefit requests.
  • Publication. The rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, March 30. A pre-publication version is available here.

Additional Information: USCIS announced the premium processing rule as part of a broader package of initiatives to reduce backlogs and provide relief to foreign nationals affected by processing delays. USCIS recently sent a final rule for White House review that would temporarily increase the automatic extension period for certain EAD renewal applicants. The text of this rule is not yet available. USCIS is also working on hiring more officers and improving case processing technology, with the goal of shorter adjudication time frames. The COVID-19 pandemic and funding and staffing issues have exacerbated backlogs across visa categories, and USCIS officials have said reducing wait times is one of the agency’s top priorities.

BAL Analysis: The extension of premium processing to additional benefit categories will shorten processing times for eligible applicants who pay the applicable fee. USCIS will begin extending premium processing this year; however, some benefit categories will not have premium processing until FY 2025. This is because under law, USCIS must ensure that its implementation or expansion of premium processing does not result in an increase in processing times for other immigration benefit requests. BAL will continue monitoring the implementation of the premium processing regulation and other initiatives to ease immigration processing and will update clients as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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