USCIS closed out the holiday season by announcing an increase in the premium processing fees, crediting inflation as the reason. Basically, the price will rise from $2500 to $2805 for most primary applications, effective February 26, 2024.
Premium processing provides expedited processing for the following forms:
- Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker;
- Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker;
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and
- Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Petitioners pay for expedited processing. For most eligible classifications, the agency will adjudicate the petition within 15 calendar days. For example, H-1B and L-1 petitioners can pay the additional fee, and receive either a decision or a request for more information within 15 days. This provides predictability in the adjudication process, with added expense.
Here is a summary of the basic timelines for different types of premium processing:
- 15 calendar days for most classifications;
- 30 calendar days for Form I-765 for F-1 students seeking OPT or STEM OPT extensions;
- 30 calendar days for Form I-539 applicants requesting a change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 nonimmigrant status, once all prerequisites, including receipt of biometrics, have been met;
- 45 calendar days for Form I-140 E13 multinational executive and manager and Form I-140 E21 national interest waiver classifications
Most nonimmigrant work petitions (e.g. H-1B, L-1, E) will see an increase from $2500 to $2805. H-2B and R-1s increase from $1500 to $1685.
I-539s increase from $1750 to $1965. Notably, some of these can be bundled without an added fee with I-129 applications, when applicable, and will likely be adjudicated on the same time schedule.
I-765 employment authorization documents for certain F-1 students will see an increase in the premium processing fee from $1500 to $1685.
Over the past few years, USCIS has gradually opened up its premium processing program to an increasing number of different types of applications. While the cost can be somewhat painful for the applicant, the availability of the option in some cases, such as with EB-2 National Interest Waivers, is welcome.
Processing times without premium processing can sometimes extend from one to two years, with some types of applications. Processing times can be as significant a challenge for applicants as substantive qualification when the times stretch out that long. Premium processing is a costly but valuable workaround in many cases.
Worth noting: premium processing fees are an add-on fee to the ordinary filing fees for any case. Filing fees can be quite substantial for certain types of cases, such as H-1Bs. Calculating the correct filing fees in a case is a challenge in itself, due to possible exemptions. For example, H-1B cap-subject petitioners have different filing fees than do H-1B cap-exempt petitioners.
An example of filing fees for an H-1B case are $460 for an I-129 fee, a $500 fraud fee, a $1500 ACWIA fee, and then the optional premium processing fee. Other types of cases may or may not require an $85 biometrics processing fee. USCIS provides a Fee Calculator, that can be helpful in some cases.