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USCIS Announces Final Phase of Premium Processing Expansion for EB-1 and EB-2 Form I-140 Petitions & Future Expansion for F-1 Students Seeking OPT & Certain Student & Exchange Visitors

USCIS is implementing the final phase of the premium processing form expansion for Form I-140 petitions under the EB-1 and EB-2 classifications. This phase will apply to new (initial) petitions, in addition to pending petitions under an E13 multinational executive and manager classification or E21 classification of a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a National Interest Waiver.

Background:

On March 30, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule, Implementation of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. This final rule codified certain premium processing and adjudication timeframes. Pursuant to this final rule, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced initiatives to increase efficiency and reduce burdens to the overall legal immigration system, including expanding premium processing to more petitions and applications. As a result, USCIS extended premium processing to certain pending EB-1 Multinational Executive and Manager (EB-1C) and EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) petitions over three separate phases in May 2022, July 2022, and September 2022.

On January 12, 2023, USCIS announced the final phase of premium processing expansion for EB-1C and NIW immigrant visa petitions. This expansion is part of USCIS’s continued efforts to implement and achieve its processing backlog reduction goals. USCIS has previously stated that they aim to achieve their established new cycle time goals by the end of fiscal year 2023.

EB-1C Multinational Manager and EB-2 National Interest Waiver Immigrant Visa I-140 Petitions

Starting from January 30, 2023, premium processing will be available for all pending and new EB-1C Multinational Executive and Manager immigrant visa petitions and all pending and new EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) immigrant visa petitions.

Before January 30, 2023, only EB-1C petitions with a receipt date of January 1, 2022 or earlier are eligible for premium processing; and only NIW petitions with a receipt date of February 1, 2022 or earlier are eligible for premium processing.

The premium processing filing fee for EB-1C and NIW immigrant visa petitions is $2,500. Premium processing service for EB-1C and NIW immigrant visa petitions means that USCIS will adjudicate the petition within 45 calendar days, as opposed to the standard 15 calendar days that many other immigration benefits enjoy. With processing times often exceeding one year for EB-1C/NIW petitions at the Texas and Nebraska Service Centers, this is welcome news. Upgrading an EB-1C/NIW petition to premium processing only expedites the adjudication of the I-140 petition and does not guarantee expedited processing of any pending I-485 applications.

Employment Authorization Document Applications for F-1 Students

The January 12th USCIS announcement also stated that in March 2023, USCIS will expand premium processing to F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT who have a pending I-765 employment authorization application. The fee will be $1,500 for a 30-day adjudication period.

Additionally, in April 2023, USCIS expects to expand premium processing to all pending and new OPT and STEM OPT I-765 applications. USCIS will announce specific dates for each group in February this year. The premium processing eligibility timeline for employment authorization applicants in other nonimmigrant visa categories remains unclear.

I-539 Applications for Certain Students and Exchange Visitors

Finally, the January 12th USCIS announcement provided an update on the agency’s plan to expand premium processing to I-539 applications.  In May 2023, USCIS anticipates expanding premium processing for pending I-539 applications for certain student and exchange visitors. It is likely that this extension phase would be limited to applicants seeking F (academic student), M (vocational student), and J (exchange visitor) nonimmigrant status. The fee will be $1,750 for 30-day adjudication period. In June 2023, USCIS expects to expand premium processing to all pending and new I-539 applications filed by certain student and exchange visitors.

At present, there is no proposed timeline for implementing premium processing for other I-539 applications, including those in E-2, E-3, H-4, L-2, or O-3 status.

This article, under no circumstances, acts as legal advice; therefore, for any immigration questions, please contact your Attorney or the Ahluwalia Law Offices, P.C. (Team ALO).

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