Paying heed to the cries of many immigrants, the USCIS has published a final rule to expand premium processing, allowing corporations and individuals to pay a premium fee for expedited processing in certain immigration categories. In addition, USCIS published a temporary final rule for renewals of employment authorization as well as aims to reduce backlogs and processing delays. Employers, attorneys, and foreign nationals with significant wait periods hailed the extension of premium processing, but hoped implementation timetables would be expedited.

Currently, the H-4 visa holders must apply for work authorization and wait for it to be processed before they can work, even though they are already in the United States and their spouse is working here.

Due to backlogs at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), approval of work permit petitions can take between six and eight months, with some applications lasting over a year.

The initiative, which has the support of the National Immigration Forum and UnidosUs, aims to address the labour shortage in the United States by allowing visa holders to work swiftly and support their families.

The expansion of premium processing does not solve USCIS’s processing issues. However, it gives the agency with additional funds that can be utilised to rectify these deficiencies, and people and employers can avoid processing delays by paying an additional fee. The new rule satisfies a congressional requirement.

What Effect Will Premium Processing Rule Have?

The USCIS Stabilization Act enhanced USCIS’s authority “to create and collect additional premium processing fees” in an appropriations measure that entered effect on October 1, 2020. USCIS states that it will introduce premium processing in phases since the law prohibits it from increasing wait times when introducing or expanding premium processing.

As soon as practically possible, USCIS will increase premium processing for Forms I-539 (application to change/extend status), I-765 (application for employment authorization), and I-140 (immigrant petition for foreign worker). USCIS reports that “DHS anticipates a phased rollout strategy to allow current premium processing revenue to cover development and implementation costs associated with expanding service availability.”

USCIS also indicated that it will create new internal “cycle time” processing goals. According to USCIS, “a cycle time shows how many months’ worth of pending cases for a certain form are awaiting a judgement.” “As an internal management statistic, cycle times are comparable to the publicly disclosed median processing times of the agency. The operational divisions of USCIS use cycle times to determine whether or not the agency is making progress in lowering its backlog and overall case processing timelines.

What are the target cycle times for specific USCIS forms?

– Two weeks: Forms I-129 and I-140 (with expedited processing);

– Two months: Form I-129 (no premium processing);

– Three months: Forms I-765, I-131, I-539, and I-824;

Six months: N-400, N-600, N-600K, I-485, I-140 (without premium processing), I-130 Immediate Relative, I-129F Fiancé(e), I-290B, I-360, I-102, I-526, I-600, I-600A, I-600K, I-730, I-800, I-800A, I-90, and I-821D Renewals.”

Temporary Final Rule Regarding EADs

USCIS noted that it “continues to make progress toward a temporary final rule titled ‘Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants’.” Depending on the specifics, the rule may give an option for persons at risk of losing their jobs owing to USCIS processing delays.

There is nothing preventing USCIS from suggesting larger remedies, including improvements to the procedure, that would reduce the need for individuals to make petitions for employment authorization for the agency to process them. In a recent settlement, USCIS agreed to “provide policy guidelines stating that L-2 spouses are permitted to work as a condition of their status.” (That means no initial filing asking employment authorization would be necessary.) There may be legal distinctions for spouses of L-1 visa holders. However, USCIS may explore a variety of administrative or regulatory actions in other categories. The miner indicates that a regulation will not be swift. USCIS has recommended a possible three-year phase-in period for the premium processing regulation.

H4 EAD process, processing time and the struggles.

The Trump administration introduced numerous regulations intended to make it more difficult to obtain approvals in a variety of immigration categories. As a result, cases built up and wait times grew. According to a research by the National Foundation for American Policy, the number of pending cases at USCIS climbed by 37 percent, from 4.7 million to 6.4 million, between the first quarters of FY 2017 and FY 2021, and the trend has persisted.

Director of USCIS Ur Jaddou began her position less than eight months ago and inherited what some consider a train wreck in the making for years. Jaddou and USCIS will ultimately be evaluated based on their ability to shorten wait times for immigration benefits. Expanding premium processing, allowing for greater flexibility on employment authorization renewals, and establishing specific targets for reducing processing times are all positive moves in the right direction.

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