The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for premium processing of certain visa petitions will increase from the current rate of $1,225 to $1,410, beginning October 1, 2018. This jump in price, which represents almost a 15 percent increase over the current rate, is in step with the impact of inflation since DHS last adjusted premium processing rates in 2010. The new rule was published in the Federal Register on August 31, 2018.

Premium processing allows filers of certain employment-based visa petitions and applications to pursue their immigration benefits on a faster track in exchange for an additional fee. Upon receipt of a request for premium processing and the corresponding fee, USCIS must either process the petition or application within 15 calendar days or refund the fee.

Impact on Employers

It has become quite common for employers to request premium processing for some visa types, such as H-1Bs. This is true for new H-1B “cap cases” (i.e., those subject to the annual quota), as well as extensions or amendments for employees already in H-1B status. Employers will need to account for the increased cost of premium processing as they review their immigration programs. Moreover, in another recent move, USCIS extended its suspension of premium processing for the vast majority of H-1B cases, including those subject to the annual quota, through February 19, 2019. The agency undertook this move to allow it additional time to reduce the current backlog of H-1B petitions. In the absence of premium processing, USCIS may take four to six months or longer to complete the processing of an H-1B petition.

Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the availability and cost of premium processing and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available.