Fantastic news has recently come from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as they have announced the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has officially initiated an expansion in their national interest waiver premium processing service. Among other visa categories, this provision includes National Interest Waiver petitioners, and allows for an expedited adjudication of their petition – in just 45 days. 

The cost of premium processing for NIW applicants is $2,500.

Since the Request for Premium Processing Service (Form I-907) has also been recently updated, it is important petitioners submit the revised form, as editions prior to 05/31/22 will be rejected. Likewise, applicants will want to make sure they pay the premium processing fee separately from other fees going forward, or it too will cause the form to be rejected.

National Interest Waiver Premium Processing (NIW)

As of June 1, 2022, the USCIS’s national interest waiver premium processing service expansion has gone into effect, offering provisions for additional visa categories. As it pertains here, National Interest Waivers will be the main topic of discussion, though there are quite a few other visa categories that will benefit from the new ruling.

This expansion is a final rule the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, aligning the premium processing service with the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, having been provided by the United States Congress.

The second phase of the premium processing expansion will begin August 1, 2022. For NIW petitioners, this means the USCIS will be able to expedite their applications as long as the immigration office receives the petitions August 1, or before. Of course, petitioners will need to pay the fee and submit their corresponding request (Form I-907).

With such services, the USCIS guarantees that green card petitions from NIW applicants will be adjudicated within 45 calendar days. Given this is such a substantial reduction in processing times from the standard 15-48 months, many industries will also benefit from this expansion. Since NIW individuals are professionals who have outstanding experience in their field, not only do they serve their employers’ and company’s interest, but they serve the public interest of the country as a whole. 

As expansions like these take time, this enlargement of premium processing currently relates only to petitioners who have previously filed their application. Such requests are not yet available for new petitioners.

Though the new addition is subject to change, at this time it only applies to the following form categories:

  • Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129)
  • Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539)
  • Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) 
  • Additional classifications under Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140)

Having said that, the U.S. Congress is requiring the USCIS to maintain this premium processing expansion in a way so as not to cause any increased processing times for otherwise regular immigration requests. To take on such growth, the USCIS has had a budget increase, is hiring and is training additional officers to assist in this extra service.

It appears additional premium processing will be available for the following categories, beginning October 1, 2024:

  • Petition for Change of Status (Form I-539) to dependent spouses and/or children with visa classifications: E-1, E-2, E-3, H-4, L-2, O-3, P-4, and R-2
  • Extension of Status (Form I-539) to dependent visa classifications: E-1, E-2, E-3, H-4, L‑2, O-3, P-4, and R-2
  • Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) for categories not yet identified

National Interest Waiver Premium Processing Fee

As previously mentioned, the fee is $2,500 for premium processing, which must be paid individually. This is because the USCIS stopped accepting combined fees for multiple petition forms, as of May 31, 2022. They mention on their I-907 form website how if an applicant combines the fees for more than one form, it will be considered an improper fee payment, and the form will consequently be rejected.  

National Interest Waiver Premium Processing Additional Efforts

There are quite a few additional efforts currently taking effect, with more in the coming year. 

Apropos of their efforts in providing relief to petitioners, like expanding premium processing services to additional visa categories, the USCIS has defined objectives for new processing goals within the agency and to reduce case backlogs. The purpose is to extend Employment Authorization Document (EAD) validity periods so applicants whose EAD renewal is still being processed will not lose employment authorization, as well as relief for other application types.

Conclusion of National Interest Waiver Premium Processing

The USCIS is upgrading some of their internal systems so as to provide relief to employment-based visa holders. Included in this development are increased efficiency, reduction of burdens to the immigration legal system, as well as expansion of premium processing for additional visa categories. 

This is outstanding news both for individuals seeking NIW work-related visas as well as the U.S. public interest as a whole, because applicants now have the option to circumnavigate the traditional filing process - saving months, if not years of time. Typical NIW green card applications can take anywhere from 15 months to 4years, depending on the processing center, however premium processing cuts that time down to 45 days.

The second phase of the expansion will begin August 1, 2022. So, any applicant or petitioner who pays the premium processing fee and submits his or her request August 1 or before, will receive the USCIS’ decision on their case within 45 calendar days.

It is the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that has been recently amended the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (USCIS Stabilization Act), to allow the USCIS to provide premium processing services for additional visa categories – all having begun taking effect in fiscal year 2022. This is an effort to make for more fair and improved processing times for applicants and petitioners alike, in receive decisions on their cases more quickly. USCIS will increase capacity, improve technology, and expand staffing to achieve these new goals by the end of FY 2023.

As this is a cursory view of the premium processing expansion, full details can be found on the USCIS announcements and news releases website. This includes visa categories, time frames, subsequent fee costs, current average processing times, backlog reduction information, as well as new cycle time frame goals.

Frequently Asked Questions About National Interest Waiver Premium Processing (FAQs)

How do I request premium processing?

For more information about eligible visa categories for premium processing, see the USCIS how-to page.

Can I still use the old edition of Form I-907?

As of July 1, 2022, the USCIS no longer accepts the 09/30/2022 form. If petitioners use this form, it will be rejected. All submissions must be the 05/31/2022 edition. Edition dates can be found at the bottom of the page on the forms. More requirements on the Form I-197 can be found on the USCIS forms Guidance website.

How can I check the processing time for my case?

Processing times can be checked on the USCIS case check website, where applicants can enter their form, category and the processing office.

How will premium processing affect my chances of receiving a Request for Evidence (RFE)?

Premium processing does not affect the chances of getting an RFE. Nor does this expedited service increase the chances of receiving a negative or affirmative decision. Premium processing only reduces the length of time it takes to receive a decision on the applicant’s petition.

How long does it take the USCIS to process NIW applications, and can I get a quicker decision on my petition?

Though NIW processing times vary each year, and right now the variance is between 15 and 48 months, applicants with pending NIW petitions are eligible to request premium processing. New petitions submitted after July 1, 2022 are not yet eligible.