**On June 9, 2021, USCIS announced that it would reinstate a traditional expedite criterion that includes a “nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States."
The first rule is to file long enough in advance to avoid having to request an expedite. However, the USCIS has the capacity to handle O and P petitions on an expedited basis, free of additional charge, and it has special procedures for doing so. The USCIS has set a specific standard for granting expedites.
The service centers are bound by the expedite criteria promulgated by USCIS headquarters. A June 9, 2021 memo concerning traditional expedites, lists the following criteria:
- Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure: (1) to timely file the benefit request; or (2) to timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
- Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
- Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
- U.S. government interests (including urgent cases for federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Labor, DHS or other public safety or national security interests); or
- Clear USCIS error.
The criteria are further spelled out in the USCIS policy manual. Even so, service center interpretation of these criteria can vary from case-to-case.
The USCIS also specifies:
“…a petitioner that is designated as a nonprofit organization by the IRS acting in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States may request that the benefit it seeks be expedited without a fee, even if premium processing is available for that benefit. USCIS retains discretion to deny that request. The same petitioner may also request premium processing for the benefit like any other petitioner if it chooses to do so.”
In order to request a traditional expedite, you must first file the petition and contact the USCIS Contact Center upon receipt of the I-797 receipt notice. The Contact Center will transmit the expedite request to the Service Center and it will decide within 5 business days whether or not your petition meets the criteria for expediting. (Note, this does not mean approval will be issued within 5 days - this is simply whether the service center will accept your petition for traditional expedite, which can reportedly take up to 45 days depending on the circumstances). The Contact Center will assign a service request number (Example: T1B.305.10.03037.VSC) to use as a reference for any additional inquiries on the expedite request. In certain cases, though, the nature of the expedite requires faster consideration and, in these instances, petitioners are encouraged to follow up with the Service Centers directly -- please inquire with the USCIS Contact Center how best to follow up in such cases.
In all cases, remember that the most compelling cases are those that involve a last-minute emergency such as illness, injury, etc., that the petitioner can somehow document, combined with significant potential financial harm. Try to address, if not document, every criterion possibly applicable to your case.
Congressional offices may be of assistance. Petitioners should first contact the case worker for their respective congressional representative by phone, then follow up with a short communication explaining the nature of the emergency, authorizing that office to contact USCIS on the petitioner's behalf, and enclosing a copy of the I-129 form and any beneficiary list. Use this option only when desperate!
Finally, if USCIS agrees that an O or P petition merits expedited handling, it does have emergency procedures for obtaining the labor consultation if required. Even in a dire emergency, the petitioner should still try to obtain the labor certification first, to save USCIS processing time. Otherwise, though, the petitioner should make it clear in the accompanying letter and on the O/P Classification Supplement that it wishes to invoke these procedures, by asking USCIS to obtain the consultation under the emergency procedures, citing 8 CFR § 214.2(o)(5)(i)(E) for O petitions, and 8 CFR § 214.2(p)(&)(i)(E) for P petitions.