It is no surprise that a long and dragged out processing time often frustrates visa applicants, especially ones waiting to receive their green cards. USCIS presents you with two limited options to hasten the process: (1) premium processing and (2) expedite request. Since those two have the same underlying purpose, moving pending cases quickly, those terms happen to be used interchangeably by some applicants. But USCIS clearly offers the two processes for different visas in different conditions. This article will help you understand the difference between the two processes that help your case move faster. Plus, don’t miss out on an opportunity to track your green card applications with a smart case tracker!
Premium processing provides quick processing for (1) Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and (2) Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. Specifically, USCIS guarantees processing within 15 days to those who choose to use this service, or USCIS will refund the premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing.
The 15-day period will begin when USCIS officially receives Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form. USCIS will issue an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence, or will open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation within the 15 calendar day period. If the petition requires the submission of additional evidence or a response to a notice of intent to deny, a new 15 calendar day period will begin when USCIS receives a complete response to the request for evidence or notice of intent to deny. The USCIS website lists the forms, designated classifications within each form type, and current availability and termination dates for premium processing service.
The filing fees are pretty steep but could be worth a shot for the assurance of hearing back from USCIS within 15 days. Fees are different depending on the form and visa type as below:
- $2,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification.
- $1,500 if you are filing Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification.
- $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant visa classification.
An applicant or petitioner for a benefit adjudicated by USCIS may make a request to expedite the processing of the application or petition at issue. Please note that expedited processing is not the same thing as premium processing in that premium processing doesn’t require petitioners to meet certain criteria, but rather it applies to some forms and visa types including I-129 and I-140.
USCIS may expedite an application or petition if it meets at least one of the following:
- Severe financial loss to company or person;
- Emergency situation;
- Humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- Department of Defense or national interest situation;
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
USCIS will make a determination on a case-by-case basis upon receiving an expedited processing request. For an “emergency situation,” USCIS explains that an example of a qualifying scenario would be if the applicant for the USCIS benefit is “gravely ill.” For “humanitarian reasons,” the outbreak of war in the applicant’s home country would be an example of a qualifying scenario. For expedited processing to be granted for a Department of Defense petition or for a national interest situation, the request must be made by a U.S. government entity and it must state that delay would be detrimental to the government.