The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the filing fee for premium processing will increase from $1,225 to $1,410, beginning on October 1, 2018. According to USCIS, this 15% increase in price is in step with inflation since DHS last adjusted premium processing rates in 2010 and will allow USCIS to more effectively adjudicate petitions and maintain service to petitioners. The new rule was published in the Federal Register on August 31, 2018.
Premium processing is an optional expediting service that is currently authorized for certain employment-based petitioners filing Forms I-129 or I-140. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base filing fee and any other applicable fees, which cannot be waived. Under premium processing, USCIS has 15 days to process these specific types of employment-based immigration benefit requests. Without premium processing, adjudication can take upwards of 4 months.
“Because premium processing fees have not been adjusted since 2010, our ability to improve the adjudications and service processes for all petitioners has been hindered as we’ve experienced significantly higher demand for immigration benefits. Ultimately, adjusting the premium processing fee will allow us to continue making necessary investments in staff and technology to administer various immigration benefit requests more effectively and efficiently,” said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Moore. “USCIS will continue adjudicating all petitions on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable law, policies, and regulations.”
Premium processing is available for certain employment based nonimmigrant visas, including H-1Bs, L-1s, O-1s and Ps, as well as some employment base permanent residency categories. Earlier this year, USCIS suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions subject to the annual quota on H-1 visas (i.e. “cap cases”). This suspension was initially slated to end on September 10, 2018, but USCIS has now pushed that date back to February 19, 2019. Additionally, USCIS also announced that, as of September 11, 2018, it will expand the suspension to include H-1B petitions seeking to amend existing H-1B status, to request a change of employer, or to change status. Only H-1B petitions seeking an extension of status (with no change in circumstances or employer) or H-1B petitions filed under the H-1B Cap Exemption will be able to file under premium processing beginning September 10, 2018. In the absence of premium processing, USCIS may take four to six months (or longer) to complete the processing of an H-1B petition.
Employers and employees alike will have to take into consideration the impact of processing times and increased fees when planning to file nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions. The unavailability of premium processing can impact the timing of employment and prolong restrictions on international travel.