Oct 01 2020

Stopgap Spending Measure Broadens USCIS Premium Processing, Temporarily Extends Expiring Immigration Programs

United States

At a glance

  • A stopgap spending measure signed into law by President Trump funds the U.S. government  through December 11, 2020, while also broadly expanding the USCIS premium processing program to include many employment-based case types and increase the base fee to $2,500, from $1,440.
  • Though the law took effect immediately, it could take several weeks or more for USCIS to implement the expanded premium program.
  • The measure also extends E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center program and other expiring programs through December 11, 2020, while Congress continues to debate the FY 2021 federal budget.

The issue

A temporary spending measure signed into law by President Trump will fund the U.S. government – including immigration operations – through December 11, 2020 while Congress continues to debate the FY 2021 federal budget.

The spending measure extends four expiring immigration programs through December 11, including E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center Program, the Conrad 30 Program for foreign medical graduates who will work in areas of the United States that are underserved by physicians, and the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker permanent residence program.

The measure also includes a permanent expansion of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) premium processing program, while increasing the base fee to $2,500, from $1,440.

Expansion of USCIS premium processing

The stopgap legislation requires USCIS to permanently expand premium processing to include many employment-based immigration applications and petitions, including applications for employment authorization and applications to change or extend status for the dependents of H-1B, L-1 and other principal nonimmigrant categories. The law also gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to designate other case types for premium service. Previously, premium processing was limited to certain I-129 nonimmigrant worker petitions and certain Form I-140 immigrant worker petitions. 

The legislation also increases the standard premium processing fee to $2,500 for cases types that had already been eligible for premium processing, with lower fees for certain case types.

The new law limits DHS authority to suspend premium processing services, permitting such suspensions only where DHS cannot complete a “significant number” of premium requests within the required time period. It also requires DHS to provide petitioners and applicants with “direct and reliable” access to premium case status information and the ability to communicate with premium processing units at USCIS Service Centers.

The expansion of premium processing also serves to bolster USCIS operations funding. Throughout the summer, the agency had threatened a furlough of 70 percent of its workforce to close a budget shortfall.

When will the Premium Processing expansion take effect?

The premium processing law has immediate effect, but as a practical matter, it may take several weeks or more for USCIS to implement the law. The agency is expected to issue an announcement when expanded premium becomes available to petitioners and applicants. The existing premium program for certain I-129 and I-140 petitions remains available.

Fragomen is closely following implementation of the premium expansion and will provide updates as they become available.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.