On May 29, 2020, USCIS announced it would resume premium processing for certain eligible applications. USCIS had previously suspended all premium processing for I-129 and I-140 petitions due to the COVID-19 crisis and the impending H-1B cap filings. The resumption of premium processing comes at a time when USCIS has said that it might need to impose layoffs due to declining revenue. USCIS’ financial challenges might be remedied by reinstating premium processing, which is a large source of funding for the agency (the premium processing fee is $1,440 per petition). According to the latest figures available, from Oct. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019, USCIS actually received 200,000 more applications than it did in the preceding three months, which indicates recent increases in revenue for the agency.
The resumption of premium processing will happen in stages. First, effective June 1, 2020, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for all eligible Form I-140 petitions. Second, effective June 8, USCIS will accept premium processing requests H-1B petitions that are H-1B cap-exempt and all other Form I-129 petitions (i.e., non-H-1B petitions such as O-1 petitions) for non-immigrant classifications eligible, provided such petitions were filed before June 8 and are pending adjudication. Third, effective June 15, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for H-1B petitions filed on or after June 8 and are exempt from the H-1B cap because the employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity, or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a governmental research organization) or the beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l). Fourth, and finally, effective June 22, USCIS will accept premium processing for all other I-129 petitions, including H-1B cap subject petitions and all other I-129 petitions for non-immigrant classifications eligible for premium processing. Individuals can find more information on the announcement at USCIS’ webpage.