On September 30, 2020 the President signed H.R. 8337, the Continuing Appropriations Act 2021 and Other Extensions Act, part of which seeks to address USCIS’s budget shortfall. Part of the act addresses Premium Processing fees. Note that while the law takes effect immediately, the increased fees and expanded availability of premium processing will not take effect until USCIS is able to implement them. The bill gives USCIS access to premium processing funds to pay for operational expenses, which are otherwise reserved for infrastructure improvement. This will clearly help their anticipated shortfall.
Premium processing services to be provided shall include:
- Employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents;
- Form I-140 petitions;
- Form I-539;
- Form I-765; and
- Any other immigration benefit type deemed appropriate by the Secretary.
The premium processing fee for benefit requests that are already eligible for premium processing services (such as I-129, L-1, H-1B, E visa change of status, etc.) will be raised from $1,440 to $2,500, except for H-2B and R-1 petitions.
The new fees will be increased as follows:
- EB-1 petitions for Multinational Managers and Executives or EB-2 NIW petitions – fee is no greater than $2,500 and processing time is no greater than 45 days.
- Change of status requests for F, J and M – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
- Change of status requests for dependents seeking E, H, L, O, P and R – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
- Form I-765 – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
The bill also allows for a biennial adjustment of premium processing fees based on the Consumer Price Index without rulemaking. The bill clarifies that the processing time clock does not begin until “all prerequisites for adjudication are received” by DHS. We are unsure what that means at this point. For example, we are unclear if fingerprinting is considered a “prerequisite to adjudication.”
Additionally, USCIS must ensure that providing expanded premium processing services does not result in an increase in processing times for other benefit applications.
Finally, the bill requires that USCIS provide a five-year plan on establishing:
- Electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions;
- Acceptance of electronic filing at all locations; and
- Issuance of all correspondence and notices electronically.