On June 22, 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume Premium Processing Service for certain I-140 petitions, starting on June 29, 2009. This decision was made after a positive evaluation by the agency of its backlog-reduction efforts and increased adjudicative efficiencies for this type of application. Current processing times for I-140 petitions range from four to 24 months, depending on the category and service center.
Premium processing was first instituted for I-140 petitions in July 2006, but was later suspended in July 2007, due to the anticipated surge of I-140 petitions filed as a result of the availability of visas in all employment categories at that time. Since then, employers, advocates and I-140 beneficiaries have sought the return of this efficient and successful service.
Under the Premium Processing Service, USCIS guarantees petitioners that for a $1,000 processing fee (in addition to the regular I-140 filing fee of $475), it will take initial action on an I-140 petition within 15 calendar days of receipt. This initial action could be an approval, a denial or a request for additional evidence. It also guarantees that within 15 calendar days of receipt of the petitioner's response to a request for more evidence, USCIS will render a decision on the application. If the petition is not initially processed within 15 calendar days, USCIS will refund the $1,000 fee and continue to process the request as part of the Premium Processing Service.
Eligible I-140 Petitions
The following categories of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, are eligible for premium processing:
- EB-1, Extraordinary Ability
- EB-1, Outstanding Professors or Researchers
- EB-2, Advance Degree Professionals (non-National Interest Waiver (NIW))
- EB-2, Exceptional Ability (non-NIW)
- EB-3, Professionals and Skilled Workers
- EB-3, Other Workers (less than two years' education, training or experience)
Petitions in the EB-1 category for multinational managers and executives as well as those applications in EB-2 requesting an NIW are not eligible for premium processing.
Conversion of Existing I-140 Petitions
Under the program for premium processing applications, it is possible to convert a regularly filed I-140 petition that is currently pending with a USCIS service center to a premium processing application. This is accomplished by submitting the $1,000 fee and the premium processing form, along with copies of the previously submitted application and receipt notice. Upon receipt, USCIS will transfer the I-140 petition to the premium processing unit.
Benefits of Premium Processing
- Significant reduction in I-140 processing time
- Access to a dedicated phone number and email address at the service center to check application status and to make inquiries
- Speeds portability of I-140 petition when concurrently filed I-485 applications have been pending for more than 180 days
- Eliminates one-year H-1B extensions for those applicants in backlogged preferences who have reached their six-year limit, instead permitting three-year H-1B visa extensions