Updated: Jun 15, 2022
Please Note: This news is developing and more details are expected soon. We've published all that is confirmed for now and will update this page as and when more confirmation is received. Thank you.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced multiple initiatives to help streamline the adjudication of benefit requests and reduce significant backlogs
USCIS said in a statement that it planned to set new goals to reduce wait times, expand premium processing to additional forms, and streamline the process for those waiting for work permit renewals.
Most importantly, the agency announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has finalized the rule expanding premium processing to additional application types, including:
All I-140 petitions, including for the EB1(c) category and for EB2 national interest waivers (NIWs), both of which historically have not had access to premium processing
Form I-539 applications, which are used to apply for changes or extensions of status for most dependents (e.g., H-4, L-2), along with F-1 students, B-1/B-2 visitors, etc.
Form I-765, which is used to apply for EADs
The final rule that is published can be found here.
You can also check out the full video and explanation of the new rule by watching the video below.
The regulation is expected to take effect on May 31, but USCIS will gradually phase in the service for the new request types. USCIS plans to expand premium processing to the two I-140 classifications and certain Form I-539 and I-765 categories this fiscal year. The agency estimates it will not be able to expand to the additional Form I-539 and I-765 categories until FY 2025. USCIS will post announcements on its website about the availability of premium processing as it becomes available for newly designated immigration benefit requests.
It is so far not clear when will the start Premium processing for H4 extension and H4 EAD applications.
USCIS announced that it plans to implement the expansion of premium processing in a phased approach this year, beginning with expanding premium processing to Form I-140 petitions for the EB1(c) category and for EB2 national interest waivers (NIWs).
In recent years, overall application processing times have increased by 25%. As of February, the backlog had reached 9.5 million applications, up from 5.7 million at the end of Fiscal Year 2019. At the end of last year, they had over 1.48 million pending EAD applications.
Read more about it here
The delays have left millions of would-be immigrants waiting months and even years for their immigration applications to be approved, separated from their families or unable to work.
What do the new measures say?
USCIS said it would hire more staff and further modernize its processes using technology to meet new processing time goals. The agency said it planned to achieve these goals by September 2023.
Another measure is to expand premium processing for more form types including I-539 and I-765 to apply for an extension/change of status and work permit respectively.
The final measure would increase the automatic extension period for work permit renewals, providing relief for hundreds of immigrants stuck in limbo as they wait for permission to work. Work permits, generally valid for 2 years, are automatically extended for 180 days once visa holders have applied for renewals. But unprecedented delays in processing renewals have left many immigrants stuck in a waiting game, or worse, without jobs once their work permits expire.
How will they Reduce Processing Backglogs?
To reduce the agency’s pending caseload, USCIS is establishing new internal cycle time goals this month. These goals are internal metrics that guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and affect how long it takes the agency to process cases. As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly. USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023.
The agency’s publicly posted processing times show the average amount of time it took USCIS to process a particular form – from when the agency received the application until a decision was made on the case. Internally, USCIS monitors the number of pending cases in the agency’s workload through a metric called “cycle times.” A cycle time measures how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. As an internal management metric, cycle times are generally comparable to the agency’s publicly posted median processing times. Cycle times are what the operational divisions of USCIS use to gauge how much progress the agency is, or is not, making on reducing our backlog and overall case processing times.
The revised fee schedule and timeframes set forth are:
i-140 for Most forms, including EB1, EB2 and EB3 will be processing in 15 calendar days, with a Premium Processing Fee of $2,500.
i-140 for EB1 Multinational Manager, EB2 National Interest Waiver, EB2 Physician will be processing in 45 calendar days, with a Premium Processing Fee of $2,500.
Form I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions will be processing in 15 calendar days, with a Premium Processing Fee of $2,500.
Form I-539 for Change or Extension of Status, to F, J or M will be processing in 30 calendar days with a Premium Processing Fee of $1,750.
Form I-539 for Change or Extension of Status, for visa types E, H, L, O, P and R Dependents will be processing in 30 calendar days with a Premium Processing Fee of $1,750.
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (otherwise commonly referred to as E.A.D) will be processing in 30 calendar days with a Premium Processing Fee of $1,500.
News about L2 Work Permit
As of Jan. 30, 2022, USCIS and CBP began issuing Forms I-94 with the following new COA codes for certain E and L spouses: E-1S, E-2S, E-3S, and L-2S. An unexpired Form I-94 reflecting one of these new codes is acceptable as evidence of employment authorization for spouses under List C of Form I-9.
If you are an E or L spouse aged 21 or over who has an unexpired Form I-94 that USCIS issued before Jan. 30, 2022, USCIS will mail you a notice beginning on or about April 1, 2022. This notice, along with an unexpired Form I-94 reflecting E-1, E-2, E-3, E-3D, E-3R, or L-2 nonimmigrant status, will serve as evidence of employment authorization. If you are an E or L spouse and under 21, or if you have not received your notice by April 30, email E-L-married-U21@uscis.dhs.gov to request a notice.
USCIS will only send notices to individuals identified as qualifying spouses based on a Form I-539 approved by USCIS. Individuals who received their Form I-94 from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) should visit www.cbp.gov.