The Senate has passed HR 8337, the continuing resolution bill funding the government until December 11th. President Trump will sign this evening in order to avoid a government shutdown at midnight. In that legislation, Congress has included important changes to the USCIS Premium Processing Program that will also allow USCIS to avoid threatened furloughs of a high percentage of its workforce. Here are the details:
Section 1 – The title of the bill is the “Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act”
Section 2. Expansion of premium processing.
Amends INA Section 286(u) first by eliminating the language limiting premium processing to employment-based petitions. The current Section 286(u) requires premium fees to be used to fund premium processing as well as making infrastructure improvements in adjudications and customer service. The new language says the funds should be deposited in the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (which is covered by INA Section 286(m). That account is the primary funding source for USCIS.
The new language says the funds should be deposited in the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (which is covered by INA Section 286(m). That account is the primary funding source for USCIS.
Premium processing shall be available in the following categories –
- – Employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents. This will broaden premium processing to a number of new categories and also speed up I-539 processing for family members.
- – EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 categories. Note that this will extend premium processing to EB-1C multinational executives and managers as well as EB-2 national interest waivers
- – Applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status.
- – Applications for employment authorization; and
- – Any other immigration benefit USCIS deems appropriate
For existing categories currently available for premium processing, the premium fee is increased to $2500 from the current $1440. H-2B and R-1 premium fees will be $1500.
For new categories, the premium fee shall be set by regulations and must include a detailed methodology supporting to proposed fee. Fees may be adjusted every two years based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
[There are some variations in the fees and maximum processing times – see below]
Premium processing fees may only be used to fund premium processing services, fund infrastructure improvements in adjudication processes and providing information and services to applicants, responding to adjudication demands, including by reducing the number of backlogged applications and otherwise offsetting the costs of providing services.
USCIS may only suspend the availability of premium processing if circumstances prevent the completion of processing of a significant number of such requests within the required period.
Premium processing customers must have direct and reliable access to current case status information and have the ability to communicate with premium processing units at the location providing the service.
For new premium processing categories, the following shall apply:
- – For EB-1C (multinational executives and managers) and EB-2 National Interest Waivers (regular and physician) the fee shall be no more than $2500 and the processing time no more than 45 days.
- – For changes of status to F, J and M, the fee is set at an amount no greater than $1750 and shall have a processing time limit of 30 days.
- – For changes to E, H, L, O,P, or R, or extensions in these categories, the fee is set an an amount not greater than $1750 and the required processing timeframe is not greater than 30 days.
- – For EADs, $1500 and no more than 30 days
The clock doesn’t start until all prerequisites for adjudication are received.
DHS must develop and implement processes to ensure that the availability of premium processing does not result in an increase in processing times for non-premium processing cases.
Section 3. Reporting Requirements.
Within 180 days after enactment, DHS shall provide Congress with a 5-year plan, including cost estimates and schedules an electronic filing plan for all applications and petitions for immigration benefits, acceptance of electronic payments, electronically communicate all decisions and correspondence, and improve processing times for all benefit requests. DHS must communicate with Congress every six months on the progress.