Today, May 29th, the USCIS announced plans to resume processing petitions with optional premium processing over the course of June. Most importantly for our clients, I-140 immigrant petitions will be eligible for premium processing upgrades and concurrent filings starting next Monday, June 1st. Pending non-cap H-1B petitions and other eligible nonimmigrant classifications including TNs, L-1s and O-1s will be eligible for premium upgrades on June 8th. The Service plans to make premium processing available for all eligible classifications, including FY2021 cap petitions, on June 22nd.
Premium processing is an optional add-on service for most employment-based petition filings that guarantees that the petition will be adjudicated within two weeks, for the additional charge of $1,440. This optional service was suspended on March 20th due to the shelter-in-place and other safety measures adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The USCIS plans to phase in premium processing as follows:
Effective Monday, June 1, 2020: all eligible I-140 immigrant petitions may request premium processing. Eligible petitions include:
The Employment Based first Preference (EB-1), except for Multinational managers (EB-1C);
Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2), except National Interest Waivers; and,
The employment-based third preference (EB-3)
Effective Monday, June 8, 2020:
All H-1B petitions filed before June 8th, except cap-subject H-1Bs, and cap-exempt H-1B,s are eligible for premium processing ‘upgrades’ by interfiling a request for premium processing for the pending petition. This includes change of employer petitions, and petitions filed for workers have previously been counted against the cap. It does not apply to petitions filed in the FY2021 cap lottery.
All other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on or before June 8th. This includes O-1 alien of extraordinary ability petitions, TN professionals pursuant to NAFTA and L-1 Multinational Transferees. It does not include H-1B1, or E-3 petitions filed pursuant to free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore and Australia.
Effective, Monday, June 22, 2020: Premium processing may be filed for all eligible nonimmigrant classifications, by either filing a concurrent request for premium processing with the petition, or by interfiling of a premium processing request for a pending petition. This applies irrespective of when the petition was filed, and includes petitions filed in the FY2021 cap lottery.
The USCIS announcement comes with one important caveat: The Service says that it plans to phase in premium processing pursuant to the above schedule but that this schedule is subject to change. It is possible that the Service will be overwhelmed by requests for premium on June 8th, and will consequently delay the full implementation schedule for June 22nd.