When it comes to immigration law, there aren’t many instances in which the USCIS makes it easier to apply for visas and green cards. However, since 2001, an extra service called premium processing was instituted to give preference to certain petitions, provided the petitioners were willing to pay the price.
What is Premium Processing?
Premium processing is an optional service provided by the USCIS that allows applicants to shorten the processing time of certain visas and green cards to 15 calendar days. It seems relatively straightforward, but there are some caveats to the process that should be taken into consideration before applying.
First things first, which visas and green cards can you use with premium processing?
The short answer is – most visas that make use of the I-129 and I-140 can be used with premium processing. However, not all are eligible. Here is a quick list of the programs that are compatible.
I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
- E-1 for treaty traders
- E-2 for treaty investors
- H-1B for specialty workers
- H-2B for temporary workers
- H-3 for trainees
- L-1A for multinational executives and managers
- L-1B for the specialty workers of multinational companies
- L-1 Blanket Petition
- O-1 for workers with extraordinary ability
- O-2 for assistants to O-1 holders
- P-1 for athletes or entertainers
- P-1S for assistants to P-1 holders
- P-2 for reciprocal exchange artists and entertainers
- P-2S for assistants to P-2 holders
- P-3 for culturally unique artists or entertainers
- P-3S for assistants to P-3 holders
- Q-1 for cultural exchange aliens
- R-1 for religious workers
- TN-1 for Canadian NAFTA workers
- TN-2 for Mexican NAFTA workers
I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- EB-1 for workers with exceptional achievements as well as outstanding researchers and professors
- EB-2 for workers with exceptional ability and those with advanced degrees
- EB-3 for skilled and unskilled workers
These visas are not available for premium processing despite making use of the I-129 and the I-140.
- J-1 for exchange visitors
- EB-1C for multinational executives and managers
- EB-2 for workers that qualify for the National Interest Waiver
The reasoning behind the exclusion of these options is not made clear by the USCIS. However, it may be attributed to the fact that these cases are more heavily scrutinized than others. This is especially true for the National Interest Waiver since each case requires a substantial amount of supplementary evidence and is reviewed extensively by an evaluating officer.
How to Apply
The premium processing form to use is the I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service. This form must be completed by the person or entity that is filling out the petition. If you have already filed an I-129 or I-140 with a USCIS service center, be sure to send the I-907 to that same center. Otherwise, you can file the forms at the same time.
Keep in mind that the USCIS will begin the 15 calendar day time period on the day that the correct service center receives the request. This means that if you file it with the wrong service center, that center will forward it to the correct location and your time will begin when it reaches the second service center.
What Are the Premium Processing Fees?
The fee for premium processing is, as of the writing of this article, $1,225. Note that this fee is subject to change, so it is the responsibility of the petitioner to be apprised of any changes made to the premium processing fee schedule.
Who Pays the Premium Processing Fee?
The USCIS allows either the petitioner or the beneficiary to pay the fee. However, if the beneficiary is responsible for the fee, an explanation will need to be made showing that the premium processing service, if granted, would primarily benefit the beneficiary rather than the employer. In other words, an employer should not be able to coerce a beneficiary into paying the premium processing fee.
What About Refunds?
The USCIS is not in the business of handing out refunds. However, one of the very few exceptions to this concerns premium processing. If the USCIS is unable to adjudicate a petition within 15 calendar days after the I-907 request has been received, then a refund of the premium processing fee will be given and the application will be processed normally. If this presents a problem, then speak with your immigration attorney to learn about your options.
USCIS Premium Processing Suspensions
While this feature is a boon to many petitioners and beneficiaries alike, it is not a given. The USCIS reserves the right to suspend or deny premium processing under whatever reasonable circumstances it deems necessary.
A prime example of this was on March 3, 2017, when the USCIS suspended the service for all H-1B petitions filed after April 3, 2017. This effectively eliminated the feature for all petitions filed for the 2018 fiscal year. One of the reasons for this was because the influx of premium processing requests caused petitions without the service to experience a long delay as the USCIS gave preference to those with premium processing.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
If you are in the process of filing an I-129 or I-140 petition in any of the above-listed immigrant or nonimmigrant categories, premium processing may be a helpful option for you, especially if your situation is time-sensitive. However, there are some cases in which premium processing would not help your case and may result in a waste of both time and money.
The best way to ensure that your resources are well spent is to retain the services of an experienced immigration attorney. Here at SGM Law Group, our lawyers will work alongside you throughout the filing process and make sure that you are taking the optimal route toward your green card or work visa.
To get in touch with one of our attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation with our office today.