US Congress passed bill HR 8337 in September 2020 that added Premium Processing option for H1B, L1 dependents(H4, L2), including all EAD categories. It also increased the premium processing fee. This bill was passed as part of big Govt. spending bill. This article will cover all the details related to the changes to premium processing options.
Background – HR 8337 Bill with Premium Processing Changes
HR 8337 was a big stopgap bill that was aimed at funding federal agencies and preventing them from shutdown until December 11th, 2020. on Sep 30th, 2020 US Senate passed the bill H.R. 8337 that was already passed in House . As per process of Bill becoming a Law in US, it has to pass both House and Senate, later to be signed by President to become law. The bill HR 8337 was signed by president into law on October 1st, 2020.
HR 8337 Bill has a section called “Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act” with many provisions related to USCIS Premium processing. It has provisions for adding premium processing for H, L visa holders dependents. Also, for general Change of Status and other applications, including EAD. It also raises the existing premium processing fee for H1B and other categories that use the same. There are also limits set on the premium processing in this bill. See below screenshot.
Now, let’s look at each of the provisions related to USCIS in the bill.
Premium Processing for H4, L2 Visa, EAD, COS, Extensions
As per the passed bill, the INA section 286(u) will be modified to include USCIS premium processing for a variety of categories as listed below
H4 and L2 Visa Holders : Premium Processing for dependents of H1B, L1 and other employment based non-immigrant petitions. Which means, H4 Visa & L2 Visa holders will be able to file I-539 Applications now for COS or Extensions under premium processing, once the law goes into effect.
For latest updates, news check – Current Status of H4 & H4 EAD Premium Processing, Timeline
EAD Applications: Premium Processing will also be introduced to the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Applications. This is going to help many, who apply for H4 EAD and end up losing jobs, as H4 EAD was not adjudicated on time due to H4 or H4 EAD processing delays.
Change of Status(COS), Extensions: Premium processing will also be available for general applications that are filed for Change of Status(COS) and Extension of Non-immigrant status. This covers a broad range of visa types that use form I-539 form that typically includes F1, H4, L2, B1/B2, F2, etc.
Employment Based Green Card Applications: Also, they are adding premium processing for EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Categories as a whole. Premium processing exists today for I-140 form today, but this will technically enable premium processing for EB1-C multinational manager and executives and National Interest Waiver (NIW) categories.
Below is the screenshot of the Bill for your reference indicating the above changes.
You can watch the below YouTube Video too, it covers all the aspects.
Premium Processing Fee increased to $2500 for H1B, L1, I-140, Others
The premium processing fee for current eligible categories such as H1B, L1, I-140 and other categories will be increased to $2,500 USD from $1440 USD. The fee is going up by over $1,000. This fee increase applies to all categories that have premium processing before August 1, 2020. The only exception for this fee increase is H2B and R-1 category, they will have fee of $1,500 USD.
Regulation to decide Premium Processing fee H4, L2, COS, EAD, Others
Congress has not set the exact premium processing fee for H4, L2, EAD, Extensions and Change of Status(COS) applications. The Bill says that USCIS will need to come up with a regulation on the fee structure and methodology used to set the premium processing fee. See above screenshot on this. As per the Bill, they have set some limits so that USCIS does not really increase them a lot, it is covered below.
Premium Processing Fee Limits, Processing time Frames – H4, L2, EAD
Congress is setting maximum premium processing fee limits to USCIS in this bill as listed below.
- Change of Status to F, J, M : Premium Processing Fee shall not exceed $1,750 and the premium processing time cannot exceed 30 days
- Change of Status to H4, L2, Others : Premium processing fee shall not exceed $1,750 and the premium processing time frame cannot exceed 30 days.
- EAD Applications : Premium processing fee for EAD is set to not greater than $1,500 and processing time frame cannot exceed 30 days.
- EB-1C multinational executives and managers : Premium processing fee cannot exceed $2,500 and processing time cannot exceed 45 days.
Premium Processing Time frame Starts after Biometrics, Prerequisites
As most of you know, there are Biometrics Requirements for I-539 form. Congress set it clearly saying that the above said Premium Processing timelines of 30 days will not start until the prerequisites of the application are met. They technically mean aspects like Biometrics and all the requirements for the application like Fee, required documents. See below screenshot.
Additional Premium Processing Provisions, Guidelines
- Biennial Adjustment of Fee : USCIS has the option to adjust the premium processing Fee every two years ( biennial). They should be based on Consumer Price Index factors.
- Use of Premium Processing Fee : The fees collected can only be used by USCIS to provide services to premium processing requestors, make infrastructure improvements for adjudication of applications, naturalization benefit requests.
- Premium Processing Services Suspension, Access : USCIS may suspend premium processing for a form type or visa category only if they cannot complete them within the required time period for premium processing. Also, the premium processing requests need to have direct and reliable access to case related status information. They also should communicate the case status properly at each of the service centers.
- Process to keep Regular Processing Times balanced : It says that USCIS should make sure there are process in place not to increase the regular processing times of all these new forms that have premium processing. Because there are premium processing options now available for all these forms, USCIS should not delays the application in a nutshell, that’s the idea.
- Report within 180 days : USCIS should submit a report to Congress within 180 days after this bill is passed to list our the 5 years plan and project costs, etc. Including all options and plans for electronic filing process, processing times reports, etc.
- Future Premium Processing for others: They are also have a general statement saying “any other benefit type that secretary deems appropriate for premium processing”. This basically will give more power to USCIS to include premium processing in future as needed for other forms without going to Congress…We need to wait and see.
Next Steps – USCIS Actions
As the president has signed the bill into law, it is now with USCIS for next steps.
- USCIS increased the proposed premium processing fee for existing categories like H1B, L1, others starting from October 19, 2020.
- They will need to propose a regulation for setting the fee of H4, L2 and EAD Premium Processing Fee. No action taken by them yet.
Latest News of H4, L2, EAD Premium Processing
As of October 21st, 2021, there is no update from USCIS on the H4, L2 and EAD premium processing options. It was added to the Spring 2021 Regulatory Agenda by Biden Administration with a planned date of September 2021, but nothing really happened even after end of September 2021. All the latest updates for the implementation of premium processing with focus on H4 & H4 EAD premium processing are tracked at : Current Status of H4 & H4 EAD Premium Processing, Timeline
What do you think of the Premium Processing Changes and Fee increase? Add your thoughts in comments.
Reference : Check Official Bill on Congress.gov