On March 30, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule to expand its Premium Processing Service to enable applicants to pay additional fees in return for faster processing times in certain immigration categories.
The final rule will be effective 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. USCIS plans to implement Premium Processing in phases over a three-year period that starts in 2022. Congress has directed the agency to ensure the expansion of Premium Processing does not worsen existing wait times.
By October 1, 2022, USCIS intends to expand Premium Processing eligibility to Form I-140 immigrant worker petitions in the categories of EB-1 multinational manager or executive and EB-2 national interest waivers, as well as Form I-539 applications to change or extend F, J or M nonimmigrant status. Form I-765 applications for employment authorization for F-1 Optional Practical Training and J exchange visitors will also become eligible for Premium Processing.
In fiscal year 2025, Premium Processing is expected to become available for Form I-765 applications for an unspecified additional employment authorization category. Certain applications for extension and change of status will also become eligible.
USCIS does not intend to make Premium Processing available for all employment authorization applications, nor is it yet known which ones will be eligible or how soon.
USCIS will share details on its website as each new case type becomes eligible for Premium processing. The agency is likely to place conditions on the availability of expedited service for new case types. USCIS also announced a forthcoming measure to temporarily expand the automatic extension of employment authorization documents (“EADs”) for certain renewal applicants.
Additionally, USCIS will determine when the Premium Processing clock starts for new case types according to when “all prerequisites for adjudication,” including USCIS receipt of needed documentation. As a result, applicants could face longer wait times than official Premium Processing time frames for a case.
USCIS has long struggled with mounting backlogs and increasing processing times, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The expansion of Premium Processing is a step in the right direction for foreign national applicants experiencing long wait times. Questions remain over the time line for introducing these expedited services.