Friday, October 16, 2020, brought an unexpected announcement from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Effective Monday, October 19, 2020, USCIS will increase fees for premium processing as required by the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (the Act), Pub. L. No 116-159, signed into law on October 1, 2020.
Premium processing service allows petitioners to pay an additional filing fee to fast track the adjudication of certain petitions within 15 days. The Act encompasses the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act which also requires USCIS to establish and collect additional premium processing fees.
Premium processing fees are increased from $1440 to $2500 with the exception of religious worker and H-2B nonimmigrant visa status.
Other proposals by USCIS – not yet adopted – are the following:
- Premium processing services will be made available to the following additional immigration benefits, with fees and timeframes through anticipated rulemaking, including:
o employment-based nonimmigrant petitions not already subject to premium processing;
o certain employment-based green card petitions (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) not already subject to premium processing. (significantly, the EB-1C executive/managerial immigrant petitions and EB-2 National interest waiver petitions would be added to the premium processing option);
o applications to extend or change nonimmigrant status; and
o applications for employment authorization and other immigration benefit requests that USCIS would deem appropriate.
There are several interesting highlights to point out regarding the above additions. The changes of status for accompanying family members, F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors and M-1 students are now eligible for premium processing and are subject to no less than a $1,750 premium processing fee. For dependents of E, H, L, O, P and R visa principal visa holders, requests for premium processing may also be submitted. Historically, dependent visa holders applying for extensions or change of status with principal applicants would have their requests for benefits adjudicated within the same timeframe as the principal applicant. USCIS terminated that procedure two years ago, however, now it will resume it, conditioned upon payment of an additional premium processing fee of less than $1,750. With that fee payment, processing can be assured in less than 30 days.
A new prospective application for benefits includes requests for employment authorization. Designated fees would be required to be less than $1,500 and processing time would be less than 30 days. In the past two years, employment authorization request wait times have skyrocketed - taking sometimes up to a year for processing - when historically, applications would be adjudicated within 90 days.
One must keep in mind that the premium processing fee is in addition to the standard fee request for benefits which might range from $550-$895, depending on the type of petition or application filed.