USCIS's premium processing program allows petitioners and applicants to request expedited processing of certain cases. Under the Premium Processing Service, in exchange for the $1,000 processing fee, USCIS guarantees that designated petitions and applications will be processed within 15 calendar days. 8 CFR 103.2(f)(1). Currently not all petitions are eligible for premium processing; only those petitions filed on Form I-129 for Nonimmigrant Workers such as E-1; E-2, H-1B; H-2B; H-3; L-1; O-1; O-2; P-1; P-3; Q-1; TN and R are eligible.
Given how quickly the H-1B cap was reached for Fiscal Year 2007 (less than two months from the initial date of filing April 1, 2006), it is obvious that most applicants are paying a premium to get their petitions adjudicated within the 15-day window.
USCIS will soon publish a notice that will expand its Premium Processing Service to include nearly all employment-based immigrant visa petitions filed on Form I-140 (immigrant worker petitions). The agency will also extend premium processing to certain Form I-539 applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status as well as to Form I-765 applications to renew employment authorization for foreign nationals with pending employment-based applications for adjustment of status. In addition, USCIS will permit concurrent filing of Forms I-539 and I-765 for certain nonimmigrant classifications.
Basically, upon payment of a $1,000 fee and submission of the supporting documentation, USCIS has to take action within 15 calendar days of filing - by issuing an approval, a denial or a request for evidence (RFE) in the case; if the agency does not take action on the case within the stated period -- the $1,000 fee is refunded.
Proposed Expansion: Form I-140 (Immigrant Worker Petitions) Premium Processing
USCIS will permit premium processing service to most employment-based (EB) immigrant visa petitions filed on Form I-140. Premium service will be available for the following employment-based immigrant categories:
- EB-1 foreign nationals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers;
- EB-2 members of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability (note, however, that premium processing will not be available for EB-2 petitions that seek national interest waivers); and
- EB-3 skilled workers, professionals and other workers.
Proposed Expansion: Form I-539 Premium Processing
Premium processing is also being expanded to include certain applications for extension of status or change of status filed on Form I-539, as follows:
- B-1 personal and domestic servants;
- B-1 foreign airline employees;
- J-1 professors, scholars, trainees, teachers, specialists, alien physicians, international visitors, government visitors, camp counselors, au pairs and summer work travel (changes of status only);
- J-2 dependents of the above-listed J-1 principals (changes of status only);
- Dependents of E-1 treaty traders;
- Dependents of E-2 treaty investors;
- H-4 dependents of H-1B specialty occupation workers, H-2B temporary workers or H-3 trainees or special education trainee program workers
- L-2 dependents of L-1A and L-1B intracompany transferees;
- O-3 dependents of O-1 foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, education or athletics or O-2 essential support nonimmigrants;
- P-4 dependants of P-1 athletes or entertainment group members, P-2 artists or entertainers in reciprocal exchange programs, P-3 artists or entertainers in culturally unique programs, or any P-1, P-2 or P-3 essential support personnel;
- R-2 dependents of R-1 religious workers; and
- TD dependents of TN nonimmigrants pursuant to NAFTA.
Form I-765 Premium Processing
USCIS will extend premium processing service to Form I-765 applications to renew employment authorization for foreign nationals who have pending Form I-485 applications to adjust status that are supported by immigrant visa petitions in the EB-1 through EB-5 classifications. No other type of employment authorization application on Form I-765 is yet available for premium processing service.
The moral of the story is this: Time is money; if you can afford premium processing, go forward with it.