Premium Processing Service

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Premium Processing Service refers to an optional premium service offered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to employers filing Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) or Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). To avail of the service, the employer needs to file Form I-907 and include a fee that (as of 2015) is $1225.[1][2]

Service offered[edit]

Procedure and time frame[edit]

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website, USCIS guarantees 15 calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use this service or USCIS will refund the Premium Processing Service fee. If the fee is refunded, the relating case will continue to receive expedited processing.[1] The time begins from the receipt of Form I-907 and the associated fee. Form I-907 may be filed along with Form I-129 or I-140, or electronically as a standalone form for a previously filed Form I-129 or I-140.[1]

What it means to process an application[edit]

When the USCIS says it will process the application within 15 days, this does not mean that a final decision about the application will be reached within that timeframe. Rather, the USCIS promises one of the following four responses:[1]

  1. Approval Notice
  2. Request For Evidence (RFE): The USCIS asks the applicant to submit additional evidence or information.
  3. Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)
  4. Commencing an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.

If the USCIS issues a RFE or NOID, the applicant must file a timely response. The USCIS has an additional 15 days to process the application after receiving the applicant's response. Form I-907 need not be filed again, and the premium processing fee need not be paid again.

Classifications for which the Premium Processing Service is available[edit]

At present, the Premium Processing Service is available for all visa classes for which Forms I-129 and I-140 can be used, with the following exceptions:[1]

Relation with cap-subject visas[edit]

Applying for the Premium Processing Service does not provide any preferential treatment in the lottery for cap-subject visas such as the H-1B visa, H-2B visa, or H-3 visa.[1][2]

Discretionary expedite requests[edit]

USCIS' previous system of allowing discretionary expedite requests is no longer available for any task for which the Premium Processing Service is available, with one exception: non-profits (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service) may still make discretionary expedite requests instead of using the Premium Processing Service.[1] Also, for categories for which Premium Processing has been temporarily suspended, discretionary expedite requests may be made and would be subject to the usual Expedite Criteria.[4][3]

History[edit]

Form category and fee changes[edit]

The Premium Processing Service began as a service with a $1000 fee for Form I-129 petition categories in 2001. It was activated for the majority of categories on June 1, and for the rest on July 30.[1][5] The fee was introduced and collected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor to the USCIS, and its introduction was a purely administrative decision by the INS rather than the result of any immigration legislation.[6]

On May 23, 2006, the USCIS announced that it would roll out the Premium Processing Service for some Form I-140 visa categories.[7] The rollout continued through 2006. Premium Processing was reinstated for Form I-140 petitions in 2009.[1]

In November 2010, the Premium Processing Service fee was hiked from $1000 to $1225 as part of a general change to the fee schedule for USCIS forms. The change would become effective in 2011.[8]

Suspension of Premium Processing Service for new cap-subject H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2019[edit]

On March 20, 2018, USCIS announced that it would suspend, until September 10, 2018, Premium Processing for all petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2019 cap (in particular, this would not include transfer petitions or extensions). Petitions for Fiscal Year 2019 (earliest start date possible: October 1, 2018) would open on April 2, 2018.[9][10] On August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that it was extending this suspension of the Premium Processing Service to February 19, 2019, and also expanding the scope to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers, with some noted exceptions. Petitioners could still make discretionary expedite requests.[11][12]

Suspension of Premium Processing Service for H-1B petitions starting April 3, 2017[edit]

On Friday, March 3, 2017, USCIS announced that starting Monday, April 3, 2017, Premium Processing would be suspended for all H-1B petitions, and the suspension could last up to six months. April 3, 2017 is the earliest date that H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2018 can be submitted, so none of these petitions would be eligible for Premium Processing.[3][13] These petitions would be eligible for discretionary expedite requests, subject to the usual restrictions placed for such requests.[3][4] Commentators discussed the suspension in the context of efforts by the administration of newly elected President Donald Trump to change the regulations and procedures surrounding immigration, as well as legislation under discussion that would alter the working of the H-1B program.[14][15][16] On September 18, 2017, USCIS lifted the suspension of Premium Processing.[17]

Pre-announced delays for processing cap-subject petitions[edit]

Starting March 2013, USCIS has generally announced a delayed start date from which to start the 15-day counter for premium processing for cap-subject petitions for the H-1B visa. This has been done in anticipation of a huge load of applications and the need to prioritize data collection about all applications. In other words, applicants who requested the Premium Processing Service should expect a response within 15 days of the delayed start date rather than within 15 days of the USCIS receiving the application.

Year for which the applications are made Date of announcement Date of delayed start for the 15-day countdown Date that the USCIS opened applications Last date that the USCIS accepted cap-subject petitions
Fiscal Year 2014 (begins October 1, 2013) March 15, 2013[18][19] April 15, 2013[18][19] April 1, 2013[18] April 5, 2013[20]
Fiscal Year 2015 (begins October 1, 2014) March 25, 2014[21] April 28, 2014[21] April 1, 2014[22] April 7, 2014[23]
Fiscal Year 2016 (begins October 1, 2015) March 12, 2015[24] May 11, 2015 (initially announced)[24]
Later revised to April 27, 2015[25]
April 1, 2015[24] April 7, 2015[26]
Fiscal Year 2017 (begins October 1, 2016) March 16, 2016[27] May 16, 2016 (initially announced)[27]
Later revised to May 12, 2016[28]
April 1, 2016[27] April 7, 2016[29]

Other suspensions of the Premium Processing Service[edit]

In addition to the annual suspension of the Premium Processing Service for cap-subject petitions as described above, USCIS has also temporarily suspended Premium Processing Service for other types of applications in order to preserve resources for other kinds of increased caseloads. For instance, in anticipation of increased caseloads due to the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule, USCIS suspended Premium Processing Service for H-1B extension of stay petitions in cap-subject categories for the period from May 26 to July 27, 2015. Those who had already applied for the Premium Processing Service before May 26 would still receive it.[30]

In other cases, USCIS has suspended Premium Processing of petitions in categories where the rules have been in flux. Most recently, the USCIS suspended processing of all H-2B petitions starting March 5, 2015, following a ruling by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Perez v. Perez.[31] On March 18, the district court granted a motion by the United States Department of Labor to resume issuance of temporary labor certifications for the H-2B program,[32] so the USCIS resumed processing H-2B petitions, but kept Premium Processing suspended.[33] On April 17, 2015, USCIS announced that it was resuming Premium Processing for H-2B petitions starting April 20, 2015.[1][34]

Reception[edit]

Reasons companies use the Premium Processing Service[edit]

Since applying for Premium Processing does not provide any preferential treatment to applicants,[1][2] commentators have claimed that the main reason companies are willing to pay these fees is because the faster turnarounds allow them and their prospective employees to plan next steps more effectively. This is particularly important in cases of requests for evidence or notices of intent to deny, because of the further iterations needed in order to get approved.

Criticism of the Premium Processing Service[edit]

In June 2001, shortly after the introduction of the Premium Processing Service by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the predecessor to USCIS), Gary Endelman wrote an article in Immigration Daily critical of the Premium Processing Service. He argued that the very fact that people were willing to pay the fee for 15-day processing times highlighted severe inefficiencies and unfunded mandates on the INS, which should not take much longer to process applications in any case. He suggested that rather than allowing the INS to treat these fees as cash cows, the United States legislature should identify clearer, more limited mandates for the agency along with a plan to fund them.[6]

Proposals to expand the Premium Processing Service to other visa categories[edit]

On his personal blog The Asylumist, lawyer Jason Dzubow has mooted the idea of extending premium processing to asylum applications, so that the influx of funds could help the USCIS spend more resources to clear a huge backlog of cases.[35]

There have also been repeated requests to the USCIS to enable premium processing for Form I-526 applications that are a first step to obtaining an EB-5 visa (investor visa).[36] The USCIS itself came up with proposals in August 2011 that would allow Premium Processing Service requests for EB-5 investor applications (made on Form I-526) for projects that were fully developed and ready to go.[37] However, as of April 2015, the Premium Processing Service is still restricted only to Form I-129 and Form I-140 petitions.[1][2][36][38]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "How Do I Use the Premium Processing Service?". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Expedite Criteria". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  5. ^ "Fact Sheet: Premium Processing Service" (PDF). United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Endelman, Gary (June 12, 2001). "Be Careful of What You Wish For: The Hidden Meaning of Premium Processing Fees". Immigration Daily. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  7. ^ "New Premium Processing Rules are in Effect" (PDF). May 23, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 14, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  8. ^ "H1B Fee Increase". H1Base. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  9. ^ "USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  10. ^ "Trump administration targets H-1B visas—again". Quartz. March 21, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  11. ^ "USCIS Extends and Expands Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions to Reduce Delays". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. August 28, 2018. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Chantal Da Silva (August 29, 2017). "H-1B VISA PREMIUM PROCESSING FAST-TRACK PROGRAM ON HOLD UNTIL 2019". Newsweek. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  13. ^ "USCIS to suspend Premium Processing Service for H-1B visas from April 3". Indian Express. March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Statt, Nick (March 3, 2017). "US to suspend fast processing of H-1B visas for high-skilled workers". The Verge. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  15. ^ Karimi, Faith (March 4, 2017). "US suspends expedited processing of H-1B visas". CNN. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  16. ^ Lawler, Richard (March 3, 2017). "US suspends 'premium processing' for H-1B visas. Heavily used by tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook, it let applicants receive an answer faster for a fee". Engadget. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  17. ^ "USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for Some Categories of Applicants Seeking H-1B Visas". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. September 18, 2017. Retrieved April 25, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2014 on April 1, 2013". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 15, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  19. ^ a b "USCIS to Delay Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions Until April 15, 2013". American Immigration Lawyers Association. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  20. ^ "USCIS Reaches FY 2014 H-1B Cap". April 8, 2013. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  21. ^ a b "USCIS to Begin Premium Processing of H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions by April 28, 2014". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  22. ^ "USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2015 Beginning April 1, 2014". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 25, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  23. ^ "USCIS Reaches FY 2015 H-1B Cap". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. April 7, 2014. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  24. ^ a b c "USCIS Will Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2016 Beginning April 1, 2015". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 12, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  25. ^ "H-1B Cap Premium Processing to Begin April 27". April 14, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  26. ^ "USCIS Reaches FY 2016 H-1B Cap". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. April 7, 2015. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  27. ^ a b c "USCIS Will Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2017 Beginning April 1, 2016". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 16, 2016. Retrieved March 26, 2016.
  28. ^ "Fiscal Year 2017 H-1B Cap Premium Processing to Begin May 12". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. April 25, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  29. ^ "USCIS Reaches FY 2017 H-1B Cap". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. April 7, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  30. ^ "USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for Extension of Stay H-1B Petitions". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. May 26, 2015. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  31. ^ "USCIS Temporarily Suspends Adjudication of H-2B Petitions Following Court Order". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 9, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  32. ^ "District Court Grants DOL Motion Concerning H-2B Program". March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  33. ^ "USCIS Resumes H-2B Adjudications; Premium Processing Remains Suspended". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. March 19, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  34. ^ "District Court Grants DOL an Extension for H-2B Program". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. April 17, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  35. ^ Dzubow, Jason (June 26, 2014). "Premium Processing for Asylum Seekers". The Asylumist. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  36. ^ a b Kalmykov, Kate (August 28, 2012). "Expediting an EB-5 Application". Greenberg Traurig LLC. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  37. ^ "Secretary Napolitano Announces Initiatives to Promote Startup Enterprises and Spur Job Creation". United States Department of Homeland Security. August 2, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  38. ^ "Is there a premium processing alternative available through the USCIS for EB5 regional center applications?". Retrieved April 5, 2015.