Premium Processing, by which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) promises processing within fifteen calendar days in exchange for more money, was introduced by USCIS on June 1, 2001. For those few who can afford it, Premium Processing represents a luxurious processing option. Imagine, if you will, being able to email, call, and fax a USCIS officer who responds almost immediately in kind! Luxury, as usual, is reserved for the rich, and so USCIS charges $1225 per petition, in addition to the standard processing fee of $325 per petition (note, this standard processing fee increases to $460 on 12/23/16). In the case of an O-1B and O-2 petition, or P petitions for principals and essential support personnel, the fees would thus amount to $3100 up front (not including consultation fees paid to unions).
In addition to the sheer access and flexibility of communications, in return for the additional fee, USCIS promises to take action on the petition within fifteen calendar days. The action can include: 1) approval; 2) denial (rare); 3) a Request for Evidence; or 4) a referral for a fraud investigation (rare). If it fails to take one of these actions within fifteen days, the petitioner should request a refund of the $1225, yet USCIS promises to continue handling the matter as a Premium Processing case.
Our USCIS Service Center Tips and Contact Information contains all of the Premium Processing contact information, including the specific address to which to send Premium Processing requests. Basically, petitioners should prepare everything as they otherwise would, then prepare an I-907 form, which USCIS uses to obtain all necessary contact information with the petitioner. The $1225 fee should be attached by separate check to the left side of that form. If two petitions are involved, there should be two I-907s, two checks, etc.
Here are some considerations pertaining to Premium Processing:
- A few tips relating to the form I-907 version released on 01/29/15: If your mailing address is different from your physical address, both need to be noted in the appropriate places in Part 1 (mailing address in Question 4, then if the physical address is different, check Yes for Question 5 and complete Question 6). In Part 1, Question 7, be sure to check the appropriate box – in most cases, unless an attorney is completing the petition on your behalf, you will be the petitioner requesting PPS, and thus you would check the first box. You will enter essentially the same information in Part 2, Question 4 and 6. Be sure to print out and submit all 6 pages of the new I-907, but you can leave the fields for Part 4 and 5 blank if you did not require the services of an interpreter or preparer. (View our updated sample of the I-907).
- There is no particular need to Premium Process an extension of stay only, because USCIS regulations permit aliens already in O and P status to remain employed in that status until it adjudicates the extension request. However, if the beneficiary will re-enter the U.S. while the extension request is pending, remember that s/he will need to have remaining validity on the old visa, or approval notice if no visa is required.
- Even within the confines of Premium Processing, petitioners may need faster processing than the normal fifteen days. (Often, by the way, the service center Premium Processing units turn petitions around well within the fifteen days). If so, it is incumbent on the petitioner to make its needs known to the Premium Processing unit, preferably by email or in the original submission.
- Premium Processing should still be subject to the emergency consultation procedures discussed in the following section on traditional expedites.
- Premium Processing should also be subject to the special O-1B consultation procedures discussed on this website under "Completing the Forms."
- At least for as long as the petition is pending in Premium Processing, the petitioner can make corrections to the spelling of names, birth dates and countries of birth. Once it has been granted, it is much more difficult to make changes without re-filing with new fees, though typos in the beneficiary list can still be addressed, at least for a few days.
- It is extremely difficult to make any material changes to the petition, once it is filed (i.e. add beneficiaries, change requested classification period, provide supplemental evidence, supply missing union consultation, etc.). To avoid delays, it is critical that the initial filing contain all of the necessary materials and information.
- Petitions already pending with USCIS can readily be converted to Premium Processing. If a petition filed through the regular filing process exceeds the posted processing times, immediately call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 800-375-5283 to initiate an inquiry into the status of your case. To upgrade the petition to Premium Processing, the petitioner need only send in the I-907 with the $1225. On the I-907, the petitioner should provide the USCIS file number, if known, and attach a copy of the I-797 receipt. If the petitioner has not yet received this information, providing the balance of the information called for by the I-907 should enable USCIS quickly to locate the file.
Perhaps the biggest single issue respecting Premium Processing is when you have no choice but to use it. Suffice it to say that if you have not filed sufficiently far in advance and/or you are not a nonprofit, you may have no choice but to use Premium Processing. Otherwise, petitioners often will file through regular processing procedures, and wait until they can stand it no longer before converting the case to Premium Processing. The best way to calculate the need for Premium Processing is to work backwards in time. In doing so, consider when the artist must travel, how long it should take for the artist to obtain an appointment and then the visa at which consulate (of itself a challenging calculation), and how long it will take to get the approval notice to the artist. Add some time for the printing and shipping of the approval to the petitioner from USCIS, and then add at least 30 days to the currently available processing-time reports from the service centers. In doing so, do not forget to take into account how long it will take the petitioner to gather the necessary documentation and obtain the labor consultation. If already squirming, you're a Premium Processing candidate!