Published June 6, 2017
These days, with processing times for various petitions and applications getting longer, it is important to be aware that U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) will entertain and grant expedite requests under a variety of circumstances.
Firstly, there are a line of employment based petitions where CIS, for an additional “premium processing” fee, will review the filing and issue a decision in as little as 7-14 days. The additional fee is $1,225.00, and that amount is on top of base filing fee at issue. CIS offers this option for the processing of the vast majority of petitions for both temporary and permanent (immigrant) visas. Importantly, in a controversial move by the new administration in recent months, the premium processing option was eliminated for H-1B temporary work visa filings – the most popular temporary work visa petition
Without the payment of the premium processing fee, CIS will usually take 3 to 6 months to review and process a temporary work visa petition, and 4-8 months to review a permanent (immigrant) worker petition.
BUT – there indeed exists an additional, separate avenue through which an individual or company can seek CIS’ expedited processing for most employment or family based filing – and without payment of the “premium processing” fee. CIS will only grant such an expedited processing request under exceptional circumstances, and where the petitioner or applicant demonstrates that one or more of the following criteria are at play:
— Severe financial loss to company or person;
— Emergency situation;
— Humanitarian reasons;
— Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
— Department of Defense or national interest situation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government.);
— USCIS error; or
— Compelling interest of USCIS.
Lastly, in the context of an employment based or family based immigrant petition (for green card), CIS’ grant of expedited processing only means that the underlying petition will be processed in an expedited manner, and without impacting the wait for visa availability in a particular immigrant visa preference category. Thus, while an immigrant visa petition might be approved on an expedited basis per the above criteria, the subject of the petition may still find themselves waiting in a line for visa availability due to the over-demand for a particular category of immigrant visa, or from a particular oversubscribed country.
New Vetting Procedures In Place for Visa Applicants
In an effort to improve screening of visa applicants and block the entry of potential terrorists into the U.S., consular officers at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are implementing new vetting procedures. Most notably, some, but not all, temporary and permanent (immigrant) visa applicants may be required to complete a lengthy, exhaustive questionnaire addressing a variety of subjects, including their travel history over the past 15 years, the source of funding for such trips, employment and residential history for the past 15 years, and user names on all social media accounts used in the past 5 years.
According to the State Department, one of the purposes of this intensive questionnaire is to identify applicants who have visited or lived in locations where terrorist groups such as Islamic State or al-Qaeda have a significant presence.
Consular officers will decide on a case by case basis which applicants will be requested to completed the supplemental questionnaire. Criteria for consular officer decision making in this context has not been made public.
PUBLISHED June 6, 2017– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2017, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois