U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a long-awaited expansion of its visa premium processing service. Premium processing will increasingly become available for new types of immigration applications over the next ten years.
During the Trump administration, USCIS could not keep up with visa and work permit applications, which sent processing times to historically high levels. These delays led to federal court litigation. In addition, the financial hit that the federal agency took during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the current backlogs. USCIS only began to recover from its poor financial condition after Congress passed legislation to allow the agency to use emergency funds and increase premium processing services to collect higher application fees.
The new USCIS policy expands premium processing by allowing people to pay additional funds to expedite:
USCIS is delaying the implementation of the premium processing changes over the next decade to avoid delays to other types of immigration applications. However, in 2022, USCIS will begin the phase-in process by offering premium processing for work visas applications for businesses sponsoring foreign executives and self-petitioning highly talented foreign nationals.
Expansion of the premium processing service is only one of several changes that USCIS is implementing to cut down on the visa backlogs that have plagued the country’s immigration system in recent years. USCIS also has set new internal backlog reduction goals designed to cut down on the cycling time or its method of measuring how many pending applications it has for a certain type of request. Finally, USCIS is working on an interim final rule to allow an increase in the time an immigrant can continue working under an expired work permit when they have a pending work permit renewal application.
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