In October 2020 Congress enacted legislation to allow USCIS to expand premium processing to several types of immigration benefit petitions and applications. USCIS finally published a proposed rule in March 2022 to offer the optional, expedited processing for multinational manager and National Interest Waiver (NIW) immigrant petitions, several categories of nonimmigrant status applications, and applications for work authorization. The rule did not set a firm date for when USCIS will begin accepting requests in the expanded categories but it did indicate it would be during the current fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2022.

The regular processing times for multinational manager and NIW petitions had been around six months but lately have grown to nearly two years in some cases. Petitions and applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status (e.g. F, J, M, E, H, L, O, P, R visa categories) have ranged widely from one to six or more months for the principal employee to a year or more for the dependent family members. The same has been the case for Employment Authorization Document applications, which historically had taken around two to three months and now routinely languish for a year or more.

The fee and processing time for multinational manager and NIW cases will be $2,500 for 45-day service. The nonimmigrant categories will be $1,750 for 30-day service. EADs will be $1,500 for 30-day service. The new rule confirms that these periods will be calendar, not business days. A prior proposed rule had changed the calculation from calendar to business days.

As I’ve written before, this premium processing expansion is the low hanging fruit that USCIS has ignored for far too long. The last successful rule increasing filing fees contained extensive commentary on the extraordinary profitability of the premium processing program and how the enabling legislation gives USCIS to direct the proceeds as it deems appropriate. It is frustrating to have to pay these exorbitant fees for predictable processing times. The inconsistent and ever changing “regular” processing times operate in a dysfunctional manner to encourage the use of premium processing.