Congress Passes Bill With Major Expansion of Premium Processing
Yesterday the Senate passed H.R. 8337 and ultimately signed by the President, which included the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. This bill includes major changes to the premium processing program and will allow USCIS to raise premium processing fees and expand premium processing availability to new categories.
The legislation states that premium processing shall be expanded as follows:
employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents of the beneficiaries of such petitions (including dependents for H, L, O, TN, and E individuals)
employment-based immigrant petitions filed by or on behalf of aliens described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 203(b) (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories, including EB-1C multinational executives and managers and EB-2 national interest waivers)
applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status
applications for employment authorization
any other immigration benefit type that the Secretary deems appropriate for premium processing
The legislation states that any immigrant benefit type already designated for premium processing, the new fee shall be increased to $2,500, with the exception of H-2B and R categories ($1,500).
With respect to the expansion of new benefit requests, DHS may set a fee that is consistent with the following:
For EB-1 multinational executives and managers and 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 changing status to the F, J or M categories, “the fee is set at an amount not greater than $1,750 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.”
For individuals seeking to change status to be classified as a dependent in E, H, L, O, P or R categories, or to extend such status, “the fee is set at 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 at an amount not greater than $1,500 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.”
Further, the bill also included a Reporting Requirements sections which states that “[n]ot later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide to the appropriate Committees a 5-year plan, including projected cost estimates, procurement strategies, and a project schedule with milestones, to accomplish each of the following:
(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.”
Please note that these changes are NOT being made today. The expansion of premium processing will first have to go through the regulatory process before being implemented, which could take several months. With regards to the increase of the premium processing fee for cases that are already eligible for premium, we will have to wait on an announcement from USCIS to see when the new fee will be applicable.