On March 30, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS published a final rule that expands premium processing for employers and foreign nationals in specific employment-based immigration categories. This rule updates the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) premium processing and allows businesses and individuals to pay a higher fee to benefit from a quicker processing time. It also remains consistent with the USCIS Stabilization Act.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times have increased over the last couple of years and created a challenging backlog for both USCIS staff and the businesses and individuals they help. As reported by Forbes, this ruling could make a significant difference for employers, lawyers, and foreign nationals, but it depends on how USCIS effectively implements the new premium processing. This new final rule will be effective starting May 31, 2022, and includes a 10-year implementation period.
Given how USCIS processing times are a persistent hurdle, many hope that the implementation timeframe will be shorter than announced. The law specifies that implementation of the expanded processing fees cannot increase existing wait times.
How Does the Premium Processing Work?
The amended premium processing does not directly change USCIS processing problems, but the new rule allows them to generate more revenue thanks to the increased premium fees. In turn, the agency address processing issues and solve employment-based immigration situations faster.
Premium processing fees will expand to the following forms:
- I-539: application to change or extend status
- I-765: application for employment authorization
- I-140: immigrant petition for alien worker
Legal representation is always important during any immigration application, including employment-based ones. An experienced attorney stays up to date with the current laws and regulations, which ensures that your application, including for renewals, meets all requirements. With the ongoing and upcoming changes thanks to this new final rule, receiving legal counsel provides you with information regarding which phase of implementation USCIS is currently in.
How This New Rule Can Help American Businesses and Foreign National Employees
The increased premium processing USCIS fees seek to improve:
- Infrastructure for adjudications processes
- Information and services to immigration and naturalization applicants
- Response time to adjudication requests
- Cost of providing adjudication and naturalization services
Improving employment-based immigration processes is important not only for businesses and foreign nationals seeking employment, but also for the spouses and relatives who depend on the employee’s immigration status for their own petitions and renewals.
USCIS aims for the following processing cycle times:
- Two weeks: I-129 and I-140 with premium processing (two and six months respectively without premium processing)
- Three months: I-765, I-131 Advance Parole, I-539, I-824
- Six months: N-400, N-600, N-600K, I-485, I-130 Immediate Relative, I-129F Fiancé(e), I-290B, I-360, I-102, I-526, I-600, I-600A, I-600K, I-730, I-800, I-800A, I-90, I-821D renewals
While these goals may need months of implementation before becoming effective, the ongoing improvements can increase staffing and processing capacity, and update technology, to reach the agency’s goals.
USCIS is also working on a new temporary rule to reduce backlogs and processing times for employment authorization renewal documents or EADs. At this point, EADs are included in the new immigration rule published on March 30, 2022, but the implementation phase of their $1,500 premium for a 30-day adjudication process remains unknown. The future new temporary rule for EADs could facilitate their obtention for many foreign nationals who work in the United States. It could also expand which types of employment authorization are eligible to renew online.