USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions – Could Earn Approx. $330,000,000 in PP Fees This Year

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing for all H-1B petitions beginning today, Tuesday, March 12, 2019.  This is welcome news for many petitioners and beneficiaries who have been subjected to significant delays in processing, and certainly, great news for USCIS itself.  There is no doubt that Premium Processing fees, increased to $1,410.00 per petition last year, are an important source of revenue for USCIS, given that is “funded primarily by immigration and naturalization benefit fees charged to applicants and petitioners.”

Premium Processing fees are technically optional, but frequently paid to increase the speed of adjudication from several months to potentially as little as two (2) to four (4) weeks.  This program was suspended and unavailable for many H-1B categories over the last 6-12 months during which time such professionals and their employers nervously witnessed (or were impacted by) adjudication delays of approximately 4-12+ months, as well as USCIS’s frequent internal changes to its adjudication criteria which allowed it to issue bizzare numbers of queries and denials of H-1B petitions in 2018

USCIS itself has generated both a pent-up demand and a critical need for its expensive premium processing program; as the January 20, 2019 research memo released by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) concluded, USCIS is “adjudicating cases at an unacceptably and increasingly slow pace…” More specifically, AILA’s research stated that: 

The overall average case processing time surged by 46 percent over the past two fiscal years and 91 percent since FY 2014.
•USCIS processed 94 percent of its form types—from green cards for family members to visas for human trafficking victims to petitions for immigrant workers—more slowly in FY 2018 than in FY 2014.
•Case processing times increased substantially in FY 2018 even as case receipt volume appeared to markedly decrease.
Other agency data lays bare a USCIS “net backlog” exceeding 2.3 million delayed cases at the end of FY 2017. This total amounts to more than a 100 percent increase over the span of one year despite only a four percent rise in case receipts during that period.

The resumption of USCIS’s premium processing program will find many takers among H-1B professionals; and USCIS could gain approximately $330 million dollars in revenue from it this fiscal year. This approximation, by way of background, is arrived at by multiplying the average number of premium processing cases from FY2013-FY2017 as noted in the 08/31/2018 “Adjustment to Premium Processing Fee” Rule by the Homeland Security Department (238,784) by the current Premium Processing fee of $1,410.00 = $336,685,440.

Table 1—Total Number of Premium Processing (Form I-907) Requests Received, Fiscal Years 2013-2017
Fiscal year Total Form I-907 receipts received
2013 189,588
2014 218,400
2015 234,576
2016 319,517
2017 231,839
Average 238,784
Source: USCIS, Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

H-1B professionals and their employers have an interest in adjudications free of undue delay, and because they are effectively required to do so, they will pay more.  These parties have been significantly impacted by “BAHA” Executive Order and thus appreciate the security that comes with a final decision “in-hand”, to travel, change employers, get married, renew a drivers license, or in general, to live a slightly less uncertain life on foreign soil.  Ultimately, it is all about perspective: an American would likely consider paying “base” government fees of up to $6,450.00 per H-1B petition more than sufficient to fund an adjudication that is timely, just, and logical.  But H-1B workers and their employers are overjoyed at the opportunity to pay $1,410.00 more to USCIS for nothing more than a timely decision.




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