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USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initiated changes to its premium processing program by publishing a proposed rule in the Federal Register in December 2019. The proposed rule, if enacted, is likely to cause significant delays in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) premium processing of some employer-based immigrant and non-immigrant petitions. Premium processing allows employers to pay an additional fee to obtain a response to their petitions within 15 days. Due to the increasing backlog of immigration applications and petitions generally, however, USCIS has suspended premium processing for specific categories of visas at times as they are unable to meet the 15-day required response time.

First, DHS has proposed changing the definition of “day” for premium processing from “calendar day” to “business day.” Practically speaking, this definition change would exclude weekends, federal holidays, and days on which the federal government is closed due to unanticipated circumstances, such as weather. As a result, the premium processing period necessarily would take longer than it does now.

USCIS Proposed Changes to Premium Processing Program Likely to Cause Delays

An additional portion of the rule would relate to the termination and restating of the 15-day premium processing timeframe. Currently, if USCIS cannot make a final decision for an application or petition submitted via premium processing, USCIS will return the premium processing fee and continue to process the case. The revised rule would require a refund of the premium processing fees only if USCIS did not take specifically adjudicative action on an application or petition requested via premium processing within the 15-day timeframe. Furthermore, if USCIS takes some forms of adjudicative action, such as issuing a request for evidence (RFE) or notice of intent to deny (NOID), the 15-day clock will stop running. The issuance of either an RFE or a NOID instead will trigger a new 15-day period in which USCIS must adjudicate the application or petition.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

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