In the last few months there has been an increase in the guessing game of wondering what will come out of Washington. Not knowing what to expect from the Trump administration and the Friday afternoon bombshells became the norm in the last four years. Now we’re waiting to see what will happen with USCIS filing fees and the expansion of the premium processing program.
Just before USCIS was ready to implement its new fee rule in October, a federal court temporarily blocked it from going into effect. The new few structure would have increased many filing fees and changed the 15-day premium processing timeframe from calendar to business days. Separately, an appropriations act the president signed on October 1, 2020 allowed for the expansion of premium processing to more types of cases and also raised the required supplemental fee from $1,440 to $2,500 for most premium processing requests.
The $2,500 premium processing fee went into effect on October 19, 2021. The expansion of premium processing for other categories will occur only when USCIS determines that it has capacity to handle the expected increased filings. The eligible categories for premium processing expansion are multinational manager and National Interest Waiver immigrant petitions, prospective students seeking to change status (such as from visitor to student), family members applying for dependent status (such as H-4 or L-2), and employment authorization documents (EADs). The EAD premium processing supplemental fee will be $1,500 and the timeline will be a maximum of 30 days. This will provide much-desired predictability over the current guessing game of two months to more than a year for persons waiting on their EADs.
Although no one is pushing for filing fees to increase any time soon, many eagerly are awaiting the expansion of premium processing. It’s anyone’s guess whether increased filing fees or expansion of premium processing ultimately will improve the now woefully long processing times for many types of cases through additional funding and the diversion of many cases to premium processing. Here’s hoping for positive developments all around in 2021.