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USCIS Premium Processing Guide

USCIS Premium Processing Guide

Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the US government body tasked with administering the lawful immigration system in the USA. As such, it is responsible for adjudicating all petitions and applications for immigration benefits. This means that there can be long delays in receiving your decision from USCIS although, in some cases, it may be possible to pay for a faster decision through premium processing.

The following guide for applicants on USCIS premium processing looks at all aspects of this expedited process, from how long it takes and how much this costs, to the different types of applications that premium processing can be used for and how to apply. We also look at how to check standard case processing times and how these times are calculated by USCIS.

 

What is USCIS premium processing?

Premium processing is a service offered by USCIS to expedite the time it takes to adjudicate a petition or application. When applying for a nonimmigrant or immigrant visa, having the ability to pay for a faster decision can be key, not least where time is of the essence and standard processing is expected to take several months or more. Equally, every day saved in waiting time can make a difference when applying for employment authorisation.

Nonimmigrant visas include various petition-based visas for the purposes of temporary work, where a prospective US employer or US agent must first file Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) with USCIS before the beneficiary can apply for their visa. Standard processing times for an employment-based nonimmigrant petition generally range between 1 to 2 months, depending on the form category and location where the matter will be adjudicated. In some cases this can be shorter, but it can also take much longer.

For applications to extend your stay in the US or to switch into a different category of nonimmigrant visa using Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), or Form I-129 where applicable, the standard processing times are typically several months. In many cases, when applying for employment authorisation to undertake paid work in the USA, processing times are also usually a matter of months. However, when applying for an employment-based immigrant visa, also known as permanent residence, the standard processing time can be far longer, sometimes more than 1 year and up to 2 years.

 

When is USCIS premium processing available?

You can use Form I-907 to request USCIS premium processing for the following forms:

  • Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
  • Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers)
  • Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) for certain classifications
  • Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) for certain classifications.

 
These forms can cover a range of different application types, including visas in E, H, L, O, P, Q, R or TN nonimmigrant classification. Additionally, applicants seeking to change to either F, M or J status who have a pending Form I-539 may request a premium processing upgrade by filing Form I-907, while those seeking to change to either F, M or J status, who do not already have a pending Form I-539, may also file Form I-539 together with Form I-907.

For other types of application, such as Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), there is no I485 premium processing available. However, you may be able to request expedited processing through the USCIS Contact Center.

 

How long does USCIS premium processing take?

The length of the processing timeframe is based on the classification of benefit requested. If you pay for premium processing, USCIS guarantees adjudicative action will be taken on your case within the following time periods or refund the premium processing fee:

  • 15 calendar days for most classifications, including Form I-129 applicants and most Form I-140 applicants (with the exception of those where 45 calendar days applies)
  • 30 calendar days for Form I-765 F-1 students seeking either OPT or STEM OPT extensions
  • 30 calendar days for Form I-539 applicants requesting a change of status to either F, M or J nonimmigrant status, including dependants of those in any one of these statuses
  • 45 calendar days for Form I-140 E13 multinational executives and managers and Form I-140 E21 national interest waiver classifications.

 
There are useful charts on the ‘How Do I Request Premium Processing?’ USCIS webpage. The charts list the forms and designated classifications within each form type that qualify for the premium processing service, where you can only request premium processing if USCIS has publicised on its website that this service is available for that type of case.

The associated time period for each applicable petition or application will begin when USCIS receives a properly completed Form I-907 at the correct filing address. To be “properly completed”, a petition or application must have the appropriate signature and correct filing fee. Additionally, for Form I-539 applicants, the clock for expedited processing will not begin until they have completed any required biometric service appointment.

Within the associated time period, USCIS will take one of a number of actions on the case, including the issue of an approval notice, a denial notice, a notice of intent to deny or a request for evidence. They could also open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.

If the underlying petition or application requires either the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent to deny, the applicable premium processing period for the matter will stop and reset. A new premium processing period will then begin once USCIS has received a response to the request for evidence or notice of intent to deny.

 

How much does USCIS premium processing cost?

There is a sizeable fee to request premium processing where, from 26 February 2024, the filing fee for Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) increased to adjust for inflation. If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after this date with the incorrect filing fee, the Form I-907 will be rejected and the filing fee returned. However, the revenue generated by the fee increase to provide premium processing services will be used to make improvements to adjudication processes and reduce benefit request processing backlogs.

The new USCIS premium processing fees are as follows:

  • $2,805  if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-129 for E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L-1, O, P, Q or TN nonimmigrant classification
  • $1,685  if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-129 for H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant classification
  • $2,805  if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-140 for EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 immigrant visa classification
  • $1,685  if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-765 with eligibility categories (C)(3)(A), (C)(3)(B) or (C)(3)(C)
  • $1,965 if you are requesting premium processing of Form I-539 seeking a change of status to either F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status.

 
The USCIS premium processing fee is in addition to all other filing fees required by the petition or application submitted. Additionally, a fee waiver will not be available for any form for which a Form I-907 is submitted and a premium processing fee is paid.

 

How do you apply for USCIS premium processing?

To apply for premium processing, you must complete and file Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) and pay the relevant fee for your application type. You can file your premium processing request with your petition or application, although you can also file the request after, so long as USCIS has not yet made a final decision on your case.

The Form I-907 filing fee must be paid separately from all other filing fees, rather than a single, combined payment. USCIS are transitioning to electronically processing immigration benefit requests, which requires the use of multiple systems to process your package, where USCIS will reject your entire package for improper fee payment.

The filing location for your Form I-907 will depend on whether you are requesting premium processing for Form I-129, Form I-140, Form I-765 or Form I-539, where there are individual USCIS webpages for each form that you can visit for the correct filing address. There is also guidance from USCIS set out on the ‘How Do I Request Premium Processing?’ webpage. The frequently asked questions at the bottom of that page provide a detailed answer to the question ‘How do I file a request for premium processing?’.

If you are an F-1 student seeking an OPT or STEM OPT extension and you are requesting premium processing for Form I-765, you can submit Form I-907 online through myUSCIS, rather than using a paper form. Equally, you can again submit Form I-907 online if you are seeking to switch to either F, M or J status. You cannot currently file Form I-907 online for any other matter, although you can still create an online account to track the status of your USCIS case and sign up for case notifications if you file a paper form.

 

Are USCIS premium processing times guaranteed?

The premium processing service guarantees that USCIS will take one of several possible actions on your case, although receiving a faster decision within the relevant expedited timeframe is not guaranteed. However, USCIS should refund the fee for any matter not acted on within that time, where the case should continue to receive expedited processing.

In the event that USCIS issues a request for evidence or a notice of intent to deny, the premium processing timeframe will stop and re-commence with a new applicable timeframe on the date that USCIS receives your response to the request or notice.

It is also worth noting that paying for premium processing does not guarantee a successful outcome to your petition or application, where expert advice should be sought prior to applying to help maximise the prospects of your case being approved first time round.

 

What are the USCIS standard processing times?

For standard processing times for all petitions and applications that can be submitted to USCIS, there is a useful online tool on the USCIS website to ‘Check Case Processing Times’. Most cases should be adjudicated by USCIS within these estimated timeframes, so it is a good way of determining how long you are likely to wait. In this way, an informed decision can be made as to whether or not premium processing, where available, is worth paying for.

The online tool will ask you to select the relevant form, form category and applicable location where the matter will be adjudicated. You can use the ‘Field Office Locator’ that can be found on the USCIS website if you need help determining your local office. If you have already submitted your case, you should refer to your receipt notice. USCIS processing times can vary quite significantly, not only depending on the nature of your application, but because of the field office or service center designated to deal with that matter.

If your application type is not listed in the processing time online tool, USCIS will aim to make a decision on your application within a period of 6 months of filing.

 

How are standard processing times calculated by USCIS?

The standard processing times refer to how long it is likely to take USCIS to decide your petition or application, starting from the date of receipt of your matter, where USCIS will usually adjudicate cases in the order that these have been received. The processing times displayed on the website represent the amount of time USCIS took to complete 80% of adjudicated cases during the last 6 months. As such, this time is defined as the number of weeks/months that have elapsed between the date USCIS received a case and the date USCIS approved or denied that particular matter in a given 6-month period.

Importantly, the processing times provided by USCIS are only estimates of how long a particular type of case is likely to take to be decided. This data is therefore only a reference point, not as an absolute measure of how long your case will take to be adjudicated. This is because each case will be assessed on its own merits, where some cases may take longer.

 

USCIS premium processing FAQs

How long does USCIS premium processing take?

The time it takes for premium processing can vary although, in most cases, you should get a decision within 15 calendar days from the date of receipt of Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) at the correct filing address.

 

How much is the USCIS premium processing fee?

The fee for USCIS premium processing depends on the underlying petition or application, although you may receive a refund if certain action has not been taken within the associated time period for the type of case.

 

Is premium processing worth it?

In many case, premium processing can result in a decision within just 15 days, rather than waiting several months or even longer for a decision, although premium processing cannot guarantee a successful outcome to your petition or application.

 

How much is OPT premium processing?

The cost of optional practical training (OPT) premium processing as an F-1 student seeking employment authorisation in the United States using Form I-765 is $1,685. This is up from $1,500 as of 26 February 2024.

 
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Author

Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Nita Nicole Upadhye is the Founder & Principal Attorney at NNU Immigration. A recognized leader in the field of US immigration law, Nita successfully acts for individuals and companies from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications.

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