The vast majority of visa petitions filed by employers interested in hiring a foreign worker go to the agency known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Due to the hundreds of thousands of visa petitions USCIS receives, however, it can take the agency an extremely long time to adjudicate any given petition. Unfortunately, this backlog can mean that any one petition may take months or even years, with the result that foreign nationals may have to wait for long periods of time to obtain their visas and green cards.
Fortunately, it is often possible to speed up the processing of a foreign worker's case by taking advantage of a procedure known as" premium processing service."
By filing an extra form and paying a fee, the foreign national’s employer (or the foreign national if the petition does not require an employer) requests that USCIS expedite the processing of the visa petition, and make a decision on the petition within 15 business days.
Premium processing is very common and USCIS processes hundreds of thousands of Form I-907 requests. This article explains the premium processing service. We explain how an employer applies for premium processing, what petitions are eligible for premium processing, and strategies to consider when making the decision whether or not to file a petition using the premium processing service.
Applying for premium processing service is extremely easy. The employer can file USCIS Form I-907 (with accompanying fee, download here) along with the visa petition, or file the premium processing request after USCIS has already received the visa petition (referred to as “upgrading” the petition to premium processing).
USCIS requires that an additional fee of $1,225 accompany the Form I-907. However, if USCIS does not meet the 15-day deadline, the $1,225 fee is returned to the employer.
An example of each filing scenario will illustrate the mechanisms of filing the Form I-907. First, let’s say you and your employer already know, at the beginning of the visa petition process, that you want to use the premium processing service. In that case, when you file the visa petition with USCIS, you would simply include the signed Form I-907 and accompanying fee with your package. USCIS will receive both the petition and the premium processing request at the same time, and proceed to adjudicate the petition within 15 business days.
In the alternative, let’s say that you and your employer do not want to utilize the premium processing service, in the hopes that you will get lucky and USCIS will adjudicate your petition in a timely manner. However, USCIS takes a very long time to adjudicate your petition and you become anxious to obtain your visa. In this case, the employer should file the Form I-907, accompanying fee, and a copy of the USCIS receipt notice for the petition (Form 797) to USCIS. It is very important to include a copy of the receipt notice along with the request to upgrade to premium processing. By doing so, USCIS will be able to easily match the Form I-907 with your petition. If you fail to include the receipt notice, it may be difficult for USCIS to match the request with your petition, resulting in further delay in the adjudication of your petition.
The following I-129 petitions are eligible for premium processing:
The following I-140 petitions are eligible for premium processing:
The biggest consideration when deciding whether to ask for premium processing service is the cost. Many employers and foreign nationals do not want to pay any extra fees, since immigration processes are already expensive.
Although USCIS can take a very long time to adjudicate petitions, the agency tries to adhere to the processing timeframes posted on its website. Depending on the petition, these timeframes currently (2012) indicate that USCIS is taking an average of two to nine months to adjudicate most petitions. Unless there is an urgent reason why your petition must be adjudicated sooner, it might not be worth the money to pay for premium processing.
However, there are situations in which you may need your petition adjudicated as soon as possible. For example, let’s say you are in the U.S. in F-1 student status. Near the end of your studies, a U.S. employer wants to hire you to work on an H-1B visa. Your employer can file an I-129 petition on your behalf, but you cannot start working for the employer until USCIS approves the petition (unless you have other work authorization, which is outside the scope of this article). In this case, it may be in your and your employer’s best interest to utilize the premium processing service.