Premium processing service expanded to include applicants for Employment Authorization Document
Faced with a multi-million case immigration backlog, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced three new actions to increase efficiency and provide relief to work permit holders.
About two million foreigners, including Indian professionals and their dependents, apply for new or renewed work permits each year, according to USCIS data. The process typically takes five to seven months.
USCIS said Tuesday it will set new agency-wide backlog reduction goals, expand premium processing to additional form types, and work to improve timely access to employment authorization documents.
Read: 23 US lawmakers ask USCIS to fix spousal work permit backlog (December 22, 2021)
“USCIS remains committed to delivering timely and fair decisions to all we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “Every application we adjudicate represents the hopes and dreams of immigrants and their families, as well as their critical immediate needs such as financial stability and humanitarian protection.”
As part of this exercise the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Tuesday announced a final rule expanding premium processing to Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status; Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and additional classifications under Form I-140.
Currently premium processing is available only to petitioners filing a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and to certain employment-based immigrant visa petitioners filing a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers.
USCIS said it intends to begin implementing, through a phased approach, premium processing availability of Form I-539, Form I-765 and Form I-140 in fiscal year 2022.
USCIS said it will also adhere to the congressional requirement that the expansion of premium processing must not cause an increase in processing times for regular immigration benefit requests.
Read: USCIS seeks to include work permits in premium processing (December 15, 2021)
USCIS plans to begin this phased implementation process by expanding premium processing eligibility to Form I-140 filers requesting EB-1 immigrant classification as a multinational executive or manager, or EB-2 immigrant classification as a member of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability seeking a national interest waiver.
To improve access to employment authorization documents, USCIS said it’s issuing a temporary final rule aiming to ensure certain individuals will not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending.
Read: USCIS to expedite EAD renewals for healthcare workers (December 29, 2021)
In recent months, USCIS has begin streamlining many EAD processes, including extending validity periods for certain EADs and providing expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers, the agency said.
To reduce the agency’s pending caseload, USCIS said it is establishing new internal cycle time goals this month. These internal metrics guide the backlog reduction efforts of the USCIS workforce and affect how long it takes the agency to process cases.
As cycle times improve, processing times will follow, and applicants and petitioners will receive decisions on their cases more quickly. USCIS will also increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resource constraints resulting from the prior administration, USCIS inherited a significant number of pending cases and increased processing times, USCIS said.
“Through today’s actions by the Biden administration, USCIS is acting to reduce these caseloads and processing times, while also ensuring that fair and efficient services are available to applicants and petitioners,” the agency said.