On June 13, 2023, USCIS announced the latest phase of its effort to expand premium processing availability to those who are desperate to secure immigration status and related employment authorization for foreign national workers in the U.S. Now, applicants seeking a change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 status can seek expedited processing.
This is incredible news! However, given the various announcements and piecemeal expansions over the last several months, many foreign nationals and employers may be wondering what premium processing benefits are, who can take advantage, and how premium processing can help.
- What is premium processing?
Premium processing is a benefit offered to applicants and petitioners for accelerated processing by USCIS. The cost and timeframe vary based on the immigration classification sought, but will be between 15 and 45 days and will cost between $1500-2500. Those wishing to take advantage of expedited processing simply need to file Form I-907, either with their initial filing, or, if the filer wishes to “upgrade” a pending petition or application, with a receipt notice of that petition or application.
- Who can file for premium processing?
In years past, premium processing was only available to an extremely limited group of petitions. However, recently, USCIS has significantly expanded its premium processing program to include a host of immigration classifications, including all classifications sought using Form I-140, most classifications sought using Form I-129, and certain F-1 students utilizing Form I-539. Premium processing is also currently available for certain students seeking approval of employment authorization using Form I-765.
Below is a table showing some of the most common immigration classifications utilized by U.S. employers, cost, and premium processing timeframe.
|I-129||E-1 (Treaty Trader)||$2500||15 days|
|E-2 (Treaty Investor)||$2500||15 days|
|H-1B (Specialty Occupation)||$2500||15 days|
|H-2B (Temporary Worker)||$1500||15 days|
|L-1A (Intracompany Transferee, Executive or Manager)||$2500||15 days|
|L-1B (Intracompany Transferee, Specialized Knowledge Professional)||$2500||15 days|
|LZ (Blanket L-1)||$2500||15 days|
|O-1 (Extraordinary Ability)||$2500||15 days|
|O-2 (Essential Support to O-1)||$2500||15 days|
|TN-1 and TN-2 (USMCA Professional)||$2500||15 days|
|I-140||EB-1A (Extraordinary Ability)||$2500||15 days|
|EB-1B (Outstanding Professors and Researchers)||$2500||15 days|
|EB-1C (Multinational Executives and Managers)||$2500||45 days|
|EB-2 (National Interest Waiver)||$2500||45 days|
|EB-2 (Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees)||$2500||15 days|
|EB-3 (Skilled Workers, Professionals, or Other Workers)||$2500||15 days|
- At the end of the premium processing period, will I know whether my application or petition has been approved?
Not necessarily. Even though petitioners and applicants pay a sizable sum for the premium processing “track,” USCIS is not obligated to approve your petition immediately. Within the applicable timeframe, they are only required to issue one of the following: approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence.
If USCIS issues a notice of intent to deny or a request for evidence, you will be permitted the typical response window given to all petitioners or applicants. Once you submit your response, the premium processing time will reset, and USCIS will have another 15, 30, or 45 days to take action.
- Can I premium process applications or petitions pending with other government agencies?
As anyone familiar with U.S. immigration law knows, USCIS is not the only government agency that deals with immigration benefits. Foreign nationals who are overseas will typically interact with the Department of State, and many nonimmigrant and immigration classifications alike require interaction with the Department of Labor. Unfortunately, at this time, USCIS is the only agency that currently offers premium processing. Applications or petitions presented to the Department of Labor and Department of State do not currently have any analogue to USCIS’s premium processing program.
- What’s next?
Fortunately, USCIS plans to continue expanding its premium processing program, allowing even more foreign nationals to resolve what has turned into extremely backlogged immigration processing times. Of course, there is an underlying important issue as to why USCIS cannot process applications in reasonable time frames without needing to pay the additional premium processing fee.
By the end of fiscal year 2025, USCIS intends to expand premium processing to dependents who file an I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status under the E, H, L, O, P, or R classifications. USCIS also intends to expand premium processing to a to-be-defined subset of applicants using form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. In addition, in an effort to provide predictability to individuals relying on EADs to show work authorization, USCIS has announced plans to expand the availability of automatic extensions for certain applicants seeking timely renewal of their EAD.
About the Author:
Alexandra Crandall is an attorney at Dickinson Wright in Phoenix. She practices business immigration, assisting employers with the preparation of immigrant and non-immigrant petitions to maintain their foreign national workforce. Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Crandall served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Jennifer B. Campbell at the Arizona Court of Appeals. She can be reached at 602-285-5074 or email@example.com. Her bio can be accessed here.
 For current information on the availability of USCIS’s premium processing service, visit https://www.uscis.gov/forms/all-forms/how-do-i-request-premium-processing.
 Although it is rare, USCIS is also permitted to open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation to pause the premium processing timeline.