Premium Processing Fee Increase Effective October 19, 2020
Today U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a press release announcing it will increase premium processing filing fees from $1440 to $2500. The increase will take effect Monday, October 19. The increase applies to all case types currently eligible for premium processing, with the exception of H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker or R-1 religious worker nonimmigrant petitions, which will increase to $1500.
The increase is the result of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, Pub. L. No. 116-159, which was signed into law on October 1, 2020. The Act includes the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, which allows USCIS to establish and collect additional premium processing fees, and to use those additional funds for expanded purposes.
Prior law required USCIS to use premium to adjudicate premium processing cases as well as make infrastructure improvements in adjudications and customer service. The new law says the funds should be deposited in the Immigration Examinations Fee Account, which is the primary funding source for USCIS.
The bill took effect immediately upon signature on October 1, but USCIS advised it would take time for them to implement its provisions. At this time, USCIS is only implementing the filing fee increase for case types currently eligible for premium processing. It is not implementing the expansion of premium to other case types.
As noted above, the filing fee increase will take effect Monday, October 19. The increase applies to all case types currently eligible for premium processing, with the exception of H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker or R-1 religious worker nonimmigrant petitions, which will increase to $1500.
Potential future expansion of premium processing
As noted in the press release, the Act also gives USCIS the ability to expand premium processing to additional forms and benefit requests, but “USCIS is not yet taking that action. Any expansion of premium processing to other forms will be implemented as provided in the legislation.” Provisions outlined in the legislation which have not yet been implemented are as follows:
– Premium processing shall be available in the following categories:
Employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents. This will broaden premium processing to a number of new categories and also speed up I-539 processing for family members
EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 categories. Note that this will extend premium processing to EB-1C multinational executives and managers as well as EB-2 national interest waiver
Applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status
Applications for employment authorization
Any other immigration benefit USCIS deems appropriate
– For new categories, the premium fee shall be set by regulations and must include a detailed methodology supporting to proposed fee
– Premium processing customers must have direct and reliable access to current case status information and have the ability to communicate with premium processing units at the location providing the service
– For new (expanded) premium processing categories, the following shall apply:
EB-1C (multinational executives and managers): Maximum fee of $2500; maximum processing time of 45 days
Changes of status to F, J and M: Maximum fee of $1750; maximum processing time of 30 days
Changes to E, H, L, O,P, or R, or extensions in these categories: Maximum fee of $1750; maximum processing time of 30 days
EADs: Maximum fee of $1500; maximum processing time of 30 days
**Note that for all case types, the premium processing fee is in addition to the base filing fee(s) for the particular case type.
– The clock doesn’t start until all prerequisites for adjudication are received
– DHS must develop and implement processes to ensure that the availability of premium processing does not result in an increase in processing times for non-premium processing cases.
When will these additional provisions be implemented?
USCIS has not provided an effective date for the expansion of premium to additional categories. However, because the additional provisions require USCIS to promulgate regulations, and “ensure that the availability of premium processing does not result in an increase in processing times for non-premium processing cases,” LAC’s read is that the expansion of premium processing to other categories will not be rolled out in the near future.
Regulations can take months or years for USCIS to issue, although when a matter is priority that timeframe can of course be shortened. The more practical restriction is the impact of adjudication timeframes for non-premium cases. The reality is that without funding for additional adjudication staffing, USCIS will be unable to both meet the time guaranteed premium processing timeframes and keep reasonable processing times on non-premium cases. On the other hand, if USCIS continues to struggle for funding, the expansion of premium as a revenue source may be an attractive option for the agency, regardless of the impact on overall processing times.
As always, if you have any questions, please contact your LAC attorney and we will do our best to assist in navigating this constantly changing immigration landscape.
This update was prepared by Fausta M. Albi, Partner, Larrabee Albi Coker LLP.
Legal Disclaimer: This e-blast is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute for legal advice based on the circumstances of a specific matter. Immigration laws and policies change frequently, often without notice. It is therefore important to seek direct legal counsel based upon individual circumstances.