On Aug. 31, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a final rule in the Federal Register to increase the premium processing fee for certain visa petitions to $1,410, effective Oct. 1, 2018. Premium processing, a service offered for certain petitions, requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate a petition (i.e., approve, deny, or send a request for evidence) within 15 calendar days. The increase to the current fee, which is $1,225, is based upon the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index-Urban Consumers index (14.92%) since the premium processing fee of $1,225 was introduced.
DHS rationale for increasing the fee is to garner additional funds to provide certain premium-processing services to business customers and to make infrastructure improvements in adjudications and customer service processes. DHS estimates the department will receive an additional $44 million in revenue due to the increased fee. Recently, USCIS established a habit of suspending premium processing for certain petitions as it continually tries to reduce its backlog of petitions.
On or after Oct. 1, 2018, all premium processing requests must include the new fee. At this time, because of the previously discussed suspension of premium processing, most H-1B petitions are not eligible for premium processing. Only cap-exempt H-1B petitions that are filed exclusively at the California Service Center because the employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or those petitions filed exclusively at the Nebraska Service Center by an employer requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer” with a concurrent request to notify a consular office abroad or extend the stay of a beneficiary are currently eligible for premium processing. Premium processing remains available for other petitions, such as L-1 or I-140 petitions.