Tag Archives: change of status

Premium Processing Would Increase to $2,500 Under Proposed House Bill

Premium Processing Would Increase to $2,500 Under Proposed House Bill; Expands Premium to Additional Petitions & Applications

UPDATE 8/25/2020: USCIS Postpones Administrative Furlough

In an attempt to address looming USCIS furloughs, a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers introduced the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The bill passed unanimously over the weekend and heads to the Senate next.

If passed by the Senate, the bill would “temporarily forestall the need for furloughs by immediately increasing the agency’s ‘premium processing’ revenues.” Premium processing allows certain individuals and companies to pay an optional fee for expedited processing for select petitions and applications. The fee is currently set at $1,440 and guarantees action within 15 days or the fee is returned and the case continues to be processed expeditiously.

The bill would increase the fee from $1,440 to $2,500 for most case types and would also expand premium processing to new petitions and applications. The revenues may be used by USCIS to improve adjudication and naturalization services and reduce backlogs, including delays for non-premium applicants. Previously, collected fees were only to be used to fund premium processing operations and infrastructure improvements. The House of Representatives bill summary states that premium processing must be made available to the following additional immigration benefits:

  • employment-based nonimmigrant petitions not already subject to premium processing;
  • certain employment-based green card petitions (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3) not already subject to premium processing;
  • applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status;
  • applications for employment authorization; and
  • other immigration benefit requests as USCIS deems appropriate.

The new fees and timeframes would be set through the Department of Homeland Security rulemaking. The bill would also allow biennial adjustments of premium fees to account for inflation.

The bill also confirms that premium processing requestors have direct and reliable access to their current case status information and the ability to communicate with the premium processing service units. USCIS may only suspend premium processing if circumstances prevent the completion of a “significant number” of premium requests within the required 15-day timeframe.

The bill would also allow USCIS to set premium fees for new benefit types without rulemaking if the fees do not exceed the below guidelines:

Benefit Type Fees Processing Times
EB-1 petitions for multinational executives and managers $2,500 45 days
EB-2 petitions involving National Interest Waiver (NIW) $2,500 45 days
Change of Nonimmigrant Status to F (academic student), J (exchange visitor), or M (vocational student) $1,750 30 days
Applications to Change or Extend Status as a dependent of an E (treaty trader or investor); H (temporary worker), L (intracompany transferee), O (extraordinary ability), P (artist or athlete), or R (religious worker $1,750 30 days
Applications for Employment Authorization $1,500 30 days

The bill also requires USCIS to develop a 5-year plan to implement:

  • electronic filing procedures for all benefit requests,
  • accept electronic payments,
  • correspond with benefit requestors electronically,
  • reduce processing timeframes for all immigration and naturalization benefit requests.

The agency will be required to conduct semi-annual briefings to the appropriate congressional committees.

Since this bill is intended to be an emergency stopgap to stabilize the USCIS budget, there may be an accelerated implementation timeline. Save $1,040 and upgrade your employment-based case for premium processing today. Contact us at info@challalaw.com to get started.

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USCIS Announces Delays for H-1B Cap Processing & Nonimmigrant Extension/Change of Status Filings

USCIS Announces Delays for H-1B Cap Processing & Nonimmigrant Extension/Change of Status Filings

USCIS announced a series of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including extensions and change of status filings for nonimmigrants and H-1B cap petitions. USCIS offices have been temporarily closed for in-person appointments and much of the workforce is working remotely.

H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

The H-1B cap filing window opened April 1, 2020 for registrations selected during the March registration period. Previously, USCIS announced that premium processing (guaranteeing a 15 day adjudication window) is suspended until further notice due to the pandemic. Petitioners are now advised that receipt notices will not be generated until at least May 1, 2020, but that intake processing will be done in the order in which the filings arrived at the service centers. Petitions will still be stamped on the date they arrive (if otherwise properly filed) and the receipt date will correspond with the actual arrival date to the service center.

While the receipt date should remain the same, this delay narrows the window for refiling if the case was “improperly filed” due to an error. Increasing the stress on petitioners is the discrepancy between the service centers noted on the registration selection notices, which reflected different service centers than indicated on the USCIS direct filing for I-129 webpage.

The filing windows are not being extended at this time and there is no indication this window will be extended. Petitioners are also asked not to make inquiries on any petitions until receipt notices are received. USCIS stated that:

“Due to delayed data entry and notice generation, there will be a general delay in processing FY 2021 cap-subject petitions. We are mindful of petitions with sensitive expiration and start dates, such as cap-gap petitions, and will strive to process these petitions as efficiently as possible.”

The announcement advised that all cap-subject petitions should be filed at the service center noted on the selection notice, but cases may be transferred between the Vermont, California, Nebraska, and Texas Service Centers to “balance the workload and enhance efficiencies.” All transferred cases will receive a notification in the mail with the new location.

Nonimmigrant Extension/Change of Status Filings

In the announcement warning of delays in processing, the Department of Homeland Security also hinted of more restrictive immigration policies:

“DHS also continues to take action to protect the American people and our communities, and is considering a number of policies and procedures to improve the employment opportunities of U.S. workers during this pandemic.”

The announcement acknowledges the existing options available to nonimmigrant visa holders, but despite the requests by many immigrant workers and supporting organizations, the notice does not provide guaranteed flexibility for those facing hardships due to COVID-19. USCIS shares the following options available:

  • Apply for an Extension. Most nonimmigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change in status (COS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services continues to accept and process applications and petitions, and many of our forms are available for online filing.
  • If You File in a Timely Manner. Nonimmigrants generally do not accrue unlawful presence while the timely-filed, non-frivolous EOS/COS application is pending.  Where applicable, employment authorization with the same employer, subject to the same terms and conditions of the prior approval, is automatically extended for up to 240 days after I-94 expiration when an extension of stay request is filed on time.
  • Flexibility for Late Applications. USCIS reminds petitioners and applicants that it can consider delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to excuse delays in filing documents based on extraordinary circumstances.

USCIS also notes that in certain situations, a late filing request for an extension or change of status may still be excused after the authorized period if it was “due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, such as those that may be caused by COVID-19.” The notice states that the “length of the delay must be commensurate with the circumstances” and that the individual must submit “credible evidence to support their request” which will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Visa Waiver Program/ESTA Update

Unlike visitor’s visas or other nonimmigrant visas, entrants in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program are not eligible for extensions. However, the regulations provide for the concept of “Satisfactory Departure” under certain emergency situations, such as COVID-19. If Satisfactory Departure is approved, the individual must depart the U.S. within the approved period to be regarded as having made a timely departure without overstaying the allowed time. We previously explored options for requesting satisfactory departure for up to 30 days by contacting the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the appropriate port of entry.

In USCIS’s announcement on processing delays, the agency also states that for Visa Waiver Program entrants who have already been granted satisfactory departure but they are unable to depart within the 30 day period because of COVID-19 travel issues, USCIS can temporarily provide an additional 30-day period of satisfactory departure. To request satisfactory departure from USCIS, a VWP entrant should call the USCIS Contact Center.

Visit Challa Law Group’s COVID-19 Resource Page for Employers & Foreign Workers to read about other critical immigration updates or email us at info@challalaw.com with any questions.