Posts Tagged ‘premium processing’

USCIS Filing Fees on the Rise, Again

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 by W. Scott Railton

As we approach the holidays, most items are on discount. Not so when it comes to immigration fees, unfortunately. USCIS has been busy this past month announcing a series of increases.

DHS proposed on November 14th to increase filing fees for USCIS by a weighted average of 21 percent, while adding other fees and lengthening adjudication processes. 84 Fed. Register 62280, 11/14/19.
DHS proposes to adjust USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 21 percent, add new fees, and make other changes, including form changes and the introduction of several new forms. Comments are due 12/16/19. (84 FR 62280, 11/14/19). The proposed rule generally forces USCIS customers (meaning U.S. businesses and U.S. family members) to often pay more, without any commitment to better service. Some of the proposals actually lengthen processing times.

Many fee waivers are stricken by the rule, virtually pricing persons out of various processes. I often find people are dissuaded from filing applications, including naturalization and H-1B applications, just because of the exorbitant costs, and this is without regard to attorney fees.

The rule also proposes to shift $200 million in received fees to enhance ICE’s work. Given the restrictive climate, this strikes me as a big piece of the agency’s intention. This Administration cannot get enough enforcement, and as was seen with the southern border, is willing to appropriate money from other sources to pay for it.

In my experience, these fee increases are rolled out every few years. I can’t remember a correlation between higher fees and better service, except perhaps with the initial implementation of premium processing, years ago. This is an agency which is still struggling to move from paper to on-line applications. Both CBP and Department of State are ahead of USCIS on this score.

Bottom line: expect filing fees to increase by 21% sometime in 2020, unless the agency is stalled by litigation. The time to comment is now, up until December 16, 2019.

Sooner…..the price for premium processing is going up to $1440, for applications postmarked on December 2, 2019. For years, this 15 day adjudication service was $1000. Many attorneys feel the agency purposes administers things so that petitioners have little choice but to file with the extra fee. H-1Bs with regular processing now take more than half a year. I-140 petitions can take a year. The processing times have gotten ridiculous, and the agency largely seems unconcerned.

We also may have an H-1B pre-lottery this year, if the agency can roll out its proposed program far enough in advance of the April 1st filing date. USCIS says that it will charge applicants $10 for the opportunity to participate in the lottery. If selected, prospective employers can then submit a full H-1B application.

The agency says it is testing its system, and is not yet sure whether they’ll be able to implement for the upcoming fiscal year. I give it a 50/50 shot. It would be a good thing for employers, if they give employers enough time to prepare the actual application if selected. USCIS sometimes overlooks the on-the-ground concerns of employers. The upside though is companies not selected will not have to pay for H-1B preparation that is for naught, due to losing out in the lottery.

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Posted in General, Scott Railton |

Premium Processing Price Hike, Suspension

Thursday, September 6th, 2018 by W. Scott Railton

USCIS will raise the price for Premium Processing on October 1st, from $1225 to the odd number of $1410. Premium processing allows petitioners for certain types of applications to be guaranteed initial adjudication within 15 days, by paying the additional fee. Employers often choose to pay this fee, since the agency often takes months upon months to adjudicate applications through regular processing. The process works a lot of the time, though sometimes attorneys feel that the Premium Processing Unit may adjudicate the petition differently than regular processing. Long-time immigration attorneys probably have seen a few Day 15 Requests for Additional Evidence, which seem issued just to comply with the 15 day adjudication window.

Many Petitioners won’t be able to pay this new, higher fee, because a few days earlier USCIS announced that it is extending and expanding the suspension of premium processing for most types of petitions, in order to get a better handle on the non-premium processing workload. This is an agency which is struggling to manage increasing vetting obligations while delivering adjudications in reasonable timeframes. Employers are best advised to be aware of these bureaucratic challenges, as they can have a real impact on noncitizen worker availability.

Here are the two press releases from USCIS announcing these changes to the Premium Processing service:

USCIS Adjusting Premium Processing Fee (8/31/18)

Fee Increase Consistent with the Consumer Price Index

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today it is adjusting the premium processing fee for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers beginning on Oct. 1, 2018 to more effectively adjudicate petitions and maintain effective service to petitioners.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,410, a 14.92 percent increase (after rounding) from the current fee of $1,225. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010 based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers.

“Because premium processing fees have not been adjusted since 2010, our ability to improve the adjudications and service processes for all petitioners has been hindered as we’ve experienced significantly higher demand for immigration benefits. Ultimately, adjusting the premium processing fee will allow us to continue making necessary investments in staff and technology to administer various immigration benefit requests more effectively and efficiently,” said Chief Financial Officer Joseph Moore. “USCIS will continue adjudicating all petitions on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet all standards required under applicable law, policies, and regulations.”

Premium processing is an optional service that is currently authorized for certain petitioners filing Forms I-129 or I-140. The system allows petitioners to request 15-day processing of certain employment-based immigration benefit requests if they pay an extra fee. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base filing fee and any other applicable fees, which cannot be waived.

USCIS intends to hire additional staff and make investments in information technology systems with the premium funds that are generated by the fee increase. This will allow the agency to provide premium processing service with less disruption while improving adjudications and operational processes.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook (/uscis).

USCIS Extends and Expands Suspension of Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions to Reduce Delays (8/28/18)

USCIS is extending the previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions and, beginning Sept. 11, 2018, will be expanding this temporary suspension to include certain additional H-1B petitions. We expect these suspensions will last until Feb. 19, 2019, and will notify the public via uscis.gov before resuming premium processing for these petitions.

While H-1B premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service filed with an affected Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. If a petitioner submits one combined check for the Form I-907 and Form I‑129 H-1B fees, both forms will be rejected.
Who Is Affected

The expanded temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed at the Vermont and California Service Centers (excluding cap-exempt filings as noted below).

The previously announced suspension of premium processing for fiscal year 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions was originally slated to last until Sept. 10, 2018, but that suspension is being extended through an estimated date of Feb. 19, 2019.

We will continue premium processing of Form I-129 H-1B petitions that are not currently suspended if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before Sept. 11, 2018. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:

The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before Sept. 11, 2018; and
We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

Premium Processing Remains Available for Certain H-1B Petitions

The suspension does not apply to:

Cap-exempt petitions that are filed exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or
Those petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” (Box b. on Part 2, Question 2, Page 2 of the current Form I-129) with a concurrent request to:
Notify the office in Part 4 so each beneficiary can obtain a visa or be admitted. (Box on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129); or
Extend the stay of each beneficiary because the beneficiary now holds this status. (Box c. on Part 2, Question 4, Page 2 of the current Form I-129).

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to any other nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.
Requesting Expedited Processing

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. The petitioner must demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and petitioners should be prepared to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request.

We review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.
Why We Are Temporarily Suspending Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

This temporary suspension will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times by allowing us to:

Process long-pending petitions, which we have been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and premium processing requests over the past few months;
Be responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates; and
Prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

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USCIS Announces Procedures for April 1st H-1B Filings

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by W. Scott Railton

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a press release today, saying it will accept cap-subject petitions for H-1Bs on April 1st. The filing window will again be five business days, until April 7th. Premium processing will not commence until April 28th.  We are in the process of preparing many applications for clients for the April 1st filing date.

The annual H-1B week is really not a way to run an effective immigration system, from the business immigration standpoint.  Once the numbers are used up, they’re gone for another year, which leaves employers with one less immigration option for the other 51 weeks of the year.

Here’s the press release:

USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2015 Beginning April 1, 2014
Release Date: March 25, 2014

Premium Processing for Cap-Subject Petitions to Begin by April 28, 2014

WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2015 cap on April 1, 2014. Cases will be considered accepted on the date that USCIS receives a properly filed petition with the correct fee. USCIS will not rely on the date that the petition is postmarked.

The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2015 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.

USCIS anticipates receiving more than enough petitions to reach both caps by April 7. The agency is prepared to use a random selection process to meet the numerical limit. Non-duplicate petitions that are not selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

Due to the high level of premium processing receipts anticipated, combined with the possibility that the H-1B cap will be met in the first 5 business days of the filing season, USCIS has temporarily adjusted its current premium processing practice. To facilitate the prioritized intake of cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than April 28, 2014. For more information on premium processing for FY 2015 cap-subject petitions, see the USCIS Alert.

H-1B petitioners should follow all requirements to avoid processing delays and possible requests for evidence. USCIS has detailed information, including an optional checklist, to assist in completing and submitting an FY 2015 H-1B petition. The processing worksheet is available on the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.

For more information on the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and current Form I-129 processing times, visit the H-1B FY 2015 Cap Season Web page. Or call the National Customer Service Center at (800) 375-5283 or (800) 767-1833 (TDD for the hearing impaired).

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit www.uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook(/uscis), and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

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