Backlog Relief Actions, Expansion of Premium Processing, Relief for Work Permit Holders Announced

April 25, 2022

By Immigration Group

This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 29, 2022, a “trio” of efforts, including setting new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expanding premium processing, and working to improve timely access to employment authorization documents (EADs).

Reducing Backlogs

USCIS is establishing new internal goals to guide backlog reduction efforts and case processing. As part of these efforts, USCIS plans to increase capacity, expand staffing and improve technology by the end of FY 2023. USCIS said it expects that once these measures are in place, “applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly.”

Expanding Premium Processing

The Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule that codifies premium processing fees and adjudication timeframes. In FY 2022, USCIS intends to begin implementing, through a phased approach, premium processing availability for Forms I-539, I-765, and I-140. USCIS said it “will also adhere to the congressional requirement that the expansion of premium processing must not cause an increase in processing times for regular immigration benefit requests.”

USCIS plans to begin phased implementation by expanding premium processing eligibility to Form I-140 filers requesting EB-1 immigrant classification as a multinational executive or manager, or EB-2 immigrant classification as a member of a profession with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver.

Under the new rule, premium processing will be available to the following categories:

  • I-140 petitions for multinational managers and National Interest Waivers (NIWs). Fee: $2,500 for adjudication within 45 days.
  • I-539 applications for F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, and M-2 will begin this fiscal year. Premium processing for E-1, E-2, E-3, L-2, H-4, O-3, P-4, or R-2 will not go into effect until FY 2025. Fee: $1,750 for adjudication within 30 days.
  • I-765 applications for Optional Practical Training and Js will begin this fiscal year. Premium processing for EADs based on adjustment of status, H-4, or L-2 filings is not available. Fee: $1,500 for adjudication within 30 days.

Extending Work Authorization

USCIS said it continues to make progress toward a temporary final rule to increase the automatic extension period of employment authorization and documentation for certain renewal applicants. USCIS said this will build on progress made in recent months in streamlining many EAD processes, including extending validity periods for certain EADs and providing expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers. USCIS said the goal is to ensure that certain individuals will not lose their work authorization while their applications are pending.