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Last Updated On: December 8, 2023 | Published On: October 5, 2022
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. In this post we’ll explore premium processing RFE, how the process works, fees, and more.
RFE Meaning: 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.
How long does it take USCIS to make a decision after RFE?
If you do not have premium processing USCIS can take up to sixty days from when they receive the RFE response to contact you, however, this time frame greatly varies case by case. If you look at RFEs issued during H-1B season, the processing time can be prolonged due to the high number of them issued. The strategy to shorten the processing time is to select premium processing, at an additional fee.
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. The cost for premium processing is $2,500 for visas that allow it.
Learn about H-1B RFE reasons and how to respond in this guide!
Below is a sample RFE full form regarding an I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You’ll see a section clearly outlined that says, “What You Need to Do” followed by a section under it that says, “When You Need to Do It”. It’s important to address all the information USCIS requests in the bullet points so that they can make a decision on your case and submit it by the deadline (information received past the deadline date will not be considered and may lead to a denial on your case). Make sure to submit all the evidence at one time, otherwise they will make a decision based on the evidence that you submit. Also, be sure to include a copy of the RFE letter with your response.
Employment-based petitioners use the premium processing service when they need to expedite the petition’s processing time and cannot or do 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, just like everyone else including those who did not opt for premium processing. 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.
You can check if your priority date is current with the most recent Visa Bulletin.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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 permanent residence or green card categories.
You can prepare and submit your premium processing RFE response using the following tips:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 essential 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.
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.
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.
While a premium processing 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:
Under these flexibilities, USCIS considers a response received within 60 calendar days after the due date set forth in the following requests or notices before taking any action, if the request or notice was issued between March 1, 2020, and Oct. 23, 2022, inclusive:
Moreover, USCIS will consider Form I-290B or Form N-336 if the form was filed up to 90 calendar days from the issuance of a decision they made and they made that decision between Nov. 1, 2021 and Oct. 23, 2022 inclusive.
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.
VisaNation Law Group has 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. They will help you prepare your petition and ensure all required documents are included to avoid delays through RFEs. They will also help you prepare your RFE response if you have already received it. You can schedule a consultation today by filling out this contact form.