U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, in phases over the next month. The service has been unavailable since March 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expedited service will become available according to the following schedule:
- On June 1, 2020, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for all eligible Form I-140 petitions.
- On June 8, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for cases filed before June 8, including amendments or extensions of H-1B status and already pending petitions in other nonimmigrant categories such as L-1 and TN.
- On June 15, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap because the employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity, or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization) or the beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/interested government agencies waiver under Immigration and Naturalization Act Section 214(l).
- On June 22, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for all other Form I-129 petitions, including H-1B cap cases for fiscal year 2021.
The resumption of the service is a welcome relief to employers and foreign nationals who have been waiting months to have applications adjudicated, a delay that creates a multitude of issues ranging from the inability to renew a driver’s license or finalize a foreign-national hire to a forced departure from the U.S. The current USCIS filing fee for premium processing is $1,440, and the resumption of the service is undoubtedly tied to a serious decline in applications and resulting revenue due to COVID-19 and the president’s immigration policies. The agency has forecast a 60% decline in applications by the end of this fiscal year, and in mid-May, it requested an additional $1.2 billion in emergency funding and proposed a 10% fee increase.