Premium Processing Fees Increased, Scope Widened To Include H4 EAD Applications

A new bill signed into effect has allowed USCIS to exponentially increase the fee charged for premium processing. The cost for premium processing for eligible immigration applicants will rise from $1,440 to $2,500. This fee hike is applicable to those immigration benefits that were eligible for premium processing on or before August 1, 2020.

Called the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021, this bill not only hiked the processing fee but also increased the number of days it would take to process each application – 15 business days instead of the current 15 calendar days.

Timeline of Premium Processing In 2020

Will you be eligible?

Additionally, this new bill expands premium processing to cover all employment-based nonimmigrant visas and green cards, as well as H-4 and Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD) applications.

Premium processing will allow the expedited adjudication of all employment based petitions for the additional fees. Given the excessive backlog in processing, this comes as a great news for all those stuck in the processing queue. 

USCIS had proposed a filing fee hike across several immigration petition categories that was blocked by a federal judge. Due to a quickly depleting budget, this was USCIS’ way of mitigating the agency’s expenses.

Who Is Eligible For The Expanded Premium Processing?

According to the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 USCIS extends the premium processing facility to the following:

  • Form I-140 petitions filed on behalf of EB-1 Multinational Managers and Executives, as well as those filing for an EB-2 National Interest Waiver (NIW) for employment-based green cards;
  • Form I-765 applications for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work authorization;
  • Form I-539 applications filed by dependents in H-4, L-2, E-3D, E-2, O-3, P-4, R-2 status (by spouses and children of individuals in H-1B, L-1, E-3, E-2, O-1, P and R-1 status);
  • Form I-539 applications filed for individuals seeking to change status to F or M (student) status or J (cultural and educational exchange) status, and
  • Any other immigration benefit type deemed appropriate by the Secretary.

New Increased Premium Processing Fee Structure

For immigration petitions that will become eligible for premium processing services, USCIS will implement the new rules according to the following:

Immigration CategoryProposed Fee StructureProcessing Times
EB-1, Multinational Managers and ExecutivesCannot exceed $2,500Cannot exceed 45 days
EB-2 NIW PetitionersCannot exceed $2,500Cannot exceed 45 days
Change of Status for F, J and MCannot exceed $1,750Cannot exceed 30 days
H4 EADCannot exceed $1,500Cannot exceed 30 days
Change of Status for dependents (H-4, L-2, E-3D, E-2, O-3, P-4, R-2)Cannot exceed $1,750Cannot exceed 30 days

Benefits Of Expanding Premium Processing Benefit

While the costs are high, there are several categories of petitioners who will benefit from having the option of expediting their petition adjudication.

  • H4-EAD

Earlier, USCIS has a 90-day limit on processing the employment authorization document (EAD). Due to several factors and the current pandemic, the processing times for EADs have gone from six months to longer in some service centers

Are you looking to expedite your H4 EAD petition?

Here’s how you can do it…

With premium processing available, EAD petitioners have a better chance at seeking employment sooner.

  • Students Moving To F1 visas

An expedited decision on change of status allows many students to attend school in a timely fashion without having to wait over a year for a decision.

  • SSN & Driver’s License

Those seeking identification documents or requiring a drivers’ license, will get it sooner once their immigration status is established.:

  • Higher Fees

 While the expansion of premium processing to E-1, E-2, H-1B, L-1, O-1, P-1, R-1, TN, EB-1 for individuals with extraordinary ability, EB-1 for outstanding professors and researchers, EB-2 and EB-3 professionals as well as other employment based petitioners and their dependents will benefit through faster adjudication, the substantial fee hike is bound to negatively impact the petitioning employer who bears the brunt of the added cost.