If you’re applying for a green card, you may have heard of premium processing. This is a service that allows you to pay an additional fee to have your application processed more quickly. But is it worth it?
Premium processing, with its promise of a decision within 15-30 days, can seem like a magic passport out of the bureaucratic maze. But before you dive into this express lane, let’s take a closer look at premium processing for green cards. We’ll discuss what it is, how much it costs, and whether or not it’s right for you.
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What is premium processing?
Premium processing is a service offered by USCIS that allows you to pay an additional fee to have your green card application processed more quickly. The fee ranges from $1500 to $2500, but it is going up this year (see below).
Once you pay the fee, USCIS will process your application within 15 days of receiving it. This is much faster than the normal processing time, which can take anywhere many months or longer.
Who can apply for premium processing?
In 2023, USCIS implemented its final phases of the premium processing expansion, meaning more immigrants than ever can apply for this fast-track.
- Employment-based visas: This remains the primary category, covering forms like I-140 (immigrant worker petition) and I-129 (nonimmigrant worker petition) for various classifications like H-1B, L-1, O-1, and TN.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) students: A recent update allows F-1 students seeking OPT work authorization to expedite their applications through premium processing for certain STEM fields and exceptional hardship cases.
- Change of status: Individuals already in the US seeking to change their visa status within certain categories, like from F-1 student to H-1B worker, can also utilize premium processing.
It’s important to note that not all forms within these categories are eligible. Please consult with an immigration attorney to confirm if your specific application qualifies.
What are the pros of premium processing?
The Speed Factor: The average USCIS processing time for employment-based petitions currently sits at around 12 months or longer. Premium processing can slash that wait by an astounding 75-85%. This is a huge bonus for companies wanting to onboard talent, and individuals on a short time-frame.
Should you get premium processing? If you need your green card quickly, or if you’re facing a deadline, then it may be worth the extra cost. However, if you’re not in a hurry, then you may be able to save money by going through the regular processing channels.
Is premium processing worth it?
Premium processing does not raise your chances of being approved: While a swift decision is guaranteed, a positive one isn’t. It does not influence whether you are part of the quota or whether your case in the end gets approved or denied. The sole purpose of premium processing is to dramatically reduce the time you’ll have to wait for a decision. Don’t assume that paying the high price tag guarantees your case gets approved.
The Cost-Benefit Equation: Premium processing comes at a hefty price, with fees ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 US depending on the form. This financial hurdle can be particularly challenging for smaller companies or individual applicants. Moreover, the expedited process doesn’t shield against potential Requests for Evidence (RFEs), which can further extend timelines and incur additional legal fees. With USICS announcing another 12.3% Increase will take effect February 26, 2024, it’s best to speak with an immigration lawyer beforehand to make sure you have a reasonable chance of your application being accepted before you apply.
How do I apply for premium processing?
To apply for premium processing, you’ll need to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. You can file this form online or by mail.
When you file Form I-907, you’ll need to include the following:
- The filing fee
- A copy of your application
- A copy of your receipt notice
USCIS will review your application and will begin processing within 15 days.
Premium processing is a valuable tool, but its effectiveness depends on individual circumstances and a clear understanding of its limitations and potential pitfalls. Before hitting that “pay” button, carefully weigh the costs and benefits, ensure your application is impeccably prepared, and seek professional guidance if needed. Remember, in the long run, a well-crafted application, regardless of processing speed, is the most reliable path to securing your US immigration goals.