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USCIS Sets Goals to Reduce Backlogs, Expand Premium Processing Services, and Improve ‘Cycle Times’ for Pending Cases

On March 29, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would implement three new actions to reduce lengthy processing times that resulted from COVID-19–related delays.

Initiative to Reduce Processing Backlogs

USCIS has established new goals for its “cycle times,” an internal metric the agency uses to measure how many months’ worth of pending cases for a particular form are awaiting a decision. In an attempt to reduce processing times by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2023, the agency will hire more personnel and improve technology to process cases and meet the new timelines for adjudication.

USCIS released the following chart outlining the new cycle time goals:

Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

 

Expansion of Premium Processing Services

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a final rule on March 30, 2022, to expand premium processing services to several case types. Currently, USCIS offers premium processing only for certain Form I-129 and I-140 petitions.

The final rule proposes a gradual expansion of premium processing services to additional types of filings, starting with the following case types, which DHS anticipates implementing by the end of FY 2022: Form I-140 (EB-1 Multinational Executive or Manager and EB-2 National Interest Waiver); Form I-539 (Change of Status to F, J, or M); and Form I-765 (Employment Authorization Document [EAD] for F-1 Optional Practical Training [OPT] and J exchange visitors).

For additional categories, the expansion will be gradually implemented through the end of FY 2025. USCIS has not yet stated the additional categories or specific dates for such implementation. USCIS is expected to release an announcement on its website as each category becomes eligible for premium processing.

The chart below summarizes the proposed additional categories eligible for premium processing, along with their processing times, fees, and implementation timeline:

Case type Processing time Premium processing fee Timeline for implementation

I-140

 

(EB-1 multinational executive/manager)

45 days $2,500 FY 2022

I-140

 

(EB-2 national interest waiver)

45 days $2,500 FY 2022

I-539

 

(F, J, and M visas)

30 days $1,750 FY 2022

I-765

 

(F-1 OPT and J-2)

30 days $1,500 FY 2022

I-539

 

(E, L-2, H-4, O-3, P-4, and R-2 visas)

30 days $1,750 By FY 2025

I-765

 

(Other types of EAD applications)

30 days $1,500 By FY 2025

USCIS has also stated that it will not allow the expansion of premium processing services to adversely affect processing times for regular immigration benefit requests, as per congressional requirement.

Improving Access to Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

To further mitigate gaps in employment due to lengthy adjudication times for EADs, USCIS announced that it is making progress toward a temporary final rule titled “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants.”

Under a 2017 rule, certain eligible EAD categories are subject to an automatic 180-day extension, provided the applicant is otherwise eligible for a renewal and the renewal application was filed before the applicant’s current EAD expired. With this new announcement, USCIS is expected to increase the automatic extension period, though the agency has not yet announced when this will take place.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 105
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About this Author

Curtis Chow, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Labor and Immigration Attorney
Associate

Curtis Y. Chow is a member of the Immigration, International, and Employment Practice Groups of Ogletree Deakins, representing employers in all aspects of U.S. immigration law and compliance, as well as international employment matters.  Based in the Columbia, South Carolina office, Curtis represents clients across the United States and internationally in a broad range of industries, including technology, retail, manufacturing, automotive, air transportation, biotechnology/biopharmaceuticals, education, entertainment, and professional services.

803-252-1300
Shareholder

Lee Depret-Bixio joined Ogletree Deakins in 2003 and she practices exclusively in the area of business immigration law.  She assists U.S. and foreign companies in obtaining and maintaining employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visas for key employees and assists clients with state and federal employment verification (I-9) compliance and enforcement issues. Having lived and worked in France for several years, Ms. Depret-Bixio is fluent in French.

Experience 

Ms. Depret-Bixio represents employers of all sizes and...

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Alessandra Carbajal Associate Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.
Associate

Alessandra Carbajal joined the firm as an associate in March 2022, where she practices business immigration law. She is a 2018 graduate of Brigham Young University, where she majored in Political Science. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the BYU Law School in 2021. During law school, Alessandra participated in the school’s community legal clinic where she assisted individuals with a variety of asylum and family based immigration cases.

Prior to joining the firm, Alessandra worked as a law clerk for a large multinational legal firm...

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