Premium processing is a unique service that provides expedited processing for certain work-based petitions. While the usual processing time for most of the USCIS immigration applications takes several months, with the premium processing service, you will receive a decision notice within 15 calendar days. It is available to various types of employment-based classifications, including both immigrant and nonimmigrant categories.
When Is the Premium Processing Service Needed?
Typically, an employment-based petition, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, requires going through several stages. First, there must be a job offer from a U.S. employer. This will be followed by the Department of Labor (DOL) Labor Condition Application (LCA) or PERM processes.
The next step is to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). You will then need to go through the process of obtaining your visa from the Department of State. If the visa beneficiary is outside the United States and not under a valid nonimmigrant visa status, he or she will also need to undergo consular processing. For many of the visas that can make use of premium processing, these steps can amount to a significant waiting period.
However, with the premium processing service, the USCIS guarantees 15 calendar days to process your petition. The 15 calendar days will start counting when the USCIS properly receives your request for the service, which is filed using an I-907 form. Within the 15 calendar day period, you will receive an approval notice, a denial notice, a request of evidence, or a notice of intent to deny. If no decision is made within that time period, the USCIS will refund you your premium processing fee.
Keep in mind that premium processing is not available for every work visa. It can only be used for visas that make use of the I-129 and I-140 petitions. Even so, some of these visas do not permit the use of premium processing. Notable examples include the EB-1C and the EB-2 NIW.
How Does Premium Processing Service Work?
Employment-based petitioners use the premium processing service when they need to expedite the petition’s processing time and cannot or does not want to wait for the usual processing time for the petition. In a situation where the application needs additional information or there is an intent to deny your petition, you will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID) from the USCIS.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering premium processing. Firstly, premium processing does not, in any way, increase your chances of getting a favorable decision on your petition—it only decreases the amount of time it takes to receive a decision. Secondly, premium processing can only be used for the I-129 or I-140 petition’s processing time and cannot be used at any other stage. This includes the PERM, LCA, adjustment of status, or consular processing steps.
Thirdly, when filing for a cap-subject H-1B petition, premium processing does not allow the beneficiary to start working as an H-1B employee until October 1st of the year that the petition is approved. Lastly, when filing for an employment-based green card, premium processing will only speed up the decision process—you will still need to wait until your priority date is current before moving forward with the green card process.
What is a Request for Evidence?
A request for evidence (RFE) is a common notice from the USCIS indicating that the immigration officer(s) in charge of your application need more information from you before they can proceed with your case.
Every employment-based application has eligibility criteria and other conditions that both the employer and employee must meet. You must provide necessary documents as proof of qualification along with the application form for the visa category. These proofs are known as supporting evidence. An RFE gives you the opportunity to fix any lacking area of your petition.
Can I Get a Request of Evidence When Using Premium Processing?
Using the premium processing service does not negate the fact that every immigration case must be adjudicated according to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Therefore, if the immigration officer finds your evidence insufficient, whether or not you use premium processing, you will get an RFE or a notice of intent to deny (NOID). In this scenario, the USCIS will notify the petitioner. If premium processing was used, a new 15 calendar day period will begin once the USCIS receives a response to the RFE.
What Does an RFE Contain?
An RFE notice explains why the evidence in your application is considered insufficient and mentions the document(s) you need to include to proceed. The request covers the following areas:
The Immigration National Act
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) guides USCIS visa applications and the appropriate evidence for each of them. The relevant law that warrants the RFE will be quoted in the request. This may cover the eligibility requirement(s) that have not yet been met.
The Evidence Submitted
All the documents and supporting evidence you have already submitted will be listed. Take time to read this part carefully to be sure that the USCIS did not miss any of the documents you have already submitted.
The Missing Evidence
The USCIS will specifically state the evidence that is lacking, as well as the reason for why the evidence submitted was not sufficient. You will also be given the examples of other evidence that may be submitted as alternate options for the missing evidence.
You will be told how long you have to gather and submit the requested evidence. Failure to respond on time will mean the USCIS will make a decision based on the initial evidence with them, which may lead to a denial.
Who is Eligible to File a Request for Premium Processing Service?
Generally, only the petitioners (employers) or their representatives or attorneys are allowed to request for a premium service by submitting an I-907. The only exception whereby a visa beneficiary is allowed to make the request is if the employment-based category allows the applicant to self-petition without an employer.
How to File a Premium Processing Request
You may file an I-907, Request for Premium Service concurrently with your I-129 or I-140. You may also file the forms separately. The I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker is designated for applicants seeking employment under a temporary status. The I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker, on the other hand, is for those applying for permanent employment-based visas, otherwise known as a permanent residence or green card categories.
How to Respond to a Premium Processing RFE
You can prepare and submit your premium processing RFE response using the following tips:
Review the Request Carefully
You will need to take the time to carefully go through the premium processing RFE until you are sure that you understand exactly what you are asked to provide. If there is anything you don’t understand, ensure that you ask for help from an immigration attorney or you can contact the USCIS for clarification.
Provide the Evidence All At Once
Typically, an RFE is issued only once, which means you have just one chance to provide a thorough and satisfactory response. Do not ignore any part of the request no matter how insignificant it might seem, or assume that some items will be overlooked by the USCIS.
Organization is Important
Try to be as concise and thorough in your response as possible. Ensure that the response will be easy to be read and understood by the immigration officers. Keep in mind that you must submit the original copy of the RFE along with your new evidence. You can put your response in order by observing the following guidelines when submitting:
- Put the original copy on the top of the documents containing your response
- Include a cover letter or a list of content that itemizes all the new documents in your response.
- Keep a copy of all the new evidence for future reference purpose
Every RFE comes with a deadline, which may be a particular date or number of days. Make sure you submit the response on or before the deadline. If it is a number of days, you need to start counting from the date that appears on the RFE (i.e. the date it was issued), which may be earlier than the date you received it.
Know the Different Responses
Any response is better than no response. If you are unable to submit the requested evidence, you can submit a partial response with at least some of the information requested. This may not be favorable, but it does not automatically mean that your petition will be denied. Speak with your immigration attorney before submitting to ensure that you are making the best choice with your RFE response.
Premium Processing Suspension
While premium processing is a very desirable service, it is not always available. The USCIS sometimes suspend the service for certain employment-based categories. This is done to allow other petitions to be processed, especially in visa categories that have an annual cap.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that petitioners first verify whether the premium service is available for the desired classification before filing a request. It is also important to determine that the visa cap for a category has not been met. As previously mentioned, filing a premium processing does not give special benefits where a cap is applicable.
Is RFE The Same As NOID?
An RFE is different from a NOID. NOID means a Notice of Intent to Deny your application. This is a more negative notice, signifying that the USCIS has already determined that you are not eligible for the classification you applied for. Though a NOID is not an official denial of your petition, it must be treated with a more urgent action as it will most likely lead to denial if you do not provide compelling evidence to salvage the decision. It is best to consult an immigration lawyer to help you evaluate your case and see if there is a way it could be salvaged.
An RFE, on the other hand, simply means that additional information is needed to make a decision on your case.
What Happens Next After Submitting the RFE Response?
The moment an RFE is issued, there will be a pause in your application processing. Once the USCIS receives your response, the processing will be resumed as another 15 calendar days start counting for premium processing.
This is the advantage of premium service over normal processing. Without premium processing, it may take 60 to 90 days before receiving a response on your case. It can even be longer in some cases.
The good news is that you may upgrade to premium processing at any time while your petition is pending. Once the USCIS receives a properly filed request to upgrade, you will get a response from them within 15 days.
Again, keep in mind that the premium processing service does not in any way improve your approval chances, it simply means that your case will be reviewed quickly.
You Can Prevent Receiving an RFE
While a premium procesing RFE comes as an opportunity to set things right, it is best to prevent it in your immigration application. No matter how you look at it, it is a potential delay to your plans for the new employment. The following tips can help you avoid an RFE:
- Carefully and thoroughly file your initial application, clarifying the job position and description convincingly.
- Present all the relevant supporting evidence to ensure every aspect is covered. For example, you may submit your degree qualification with accompanying transcripts for a visa that has an education requirement.
- Double-check every piece of information and ensure everything is correct and consistent.
- Work with an experienced immigration attorney when gathering, filling, and submitting your documents.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
The premium processing service is a desirable service that all but guarantees speedy processing of your application. Receiving an RFE while using a premium service will automatically prolong the process further than the 15 day period. Also, if you have already received an RFE, you will only have one chance to give a satisfactory response. Otherwise, a denial is likely imminent. This is why it is essential to seek immigration legal help to avoid potential denial.
Here at Immi-USA, we have a team of highly qualified immigration attorneys with a long track record of helping applicants obtain their visas with the premium processing service, even after RFEs. We will help you prepare your petition and ensure all required documents are included to avoid delays through RFEs. We will also help you prepare your RFE response if you have already received it. You can schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers today by filling out this contact form.