Because the immigration process can take several months, applicants often look for ways to speed up the adjudication of their cases. There are two things they can do — premium processing and an expedite request. Both requests will speed up an immigration case, but each works very differently.
Premium Processing vs an Expedite Request
Premium processing and an expedite request differ in terms of fees, the process for applying, availability, eligibility, and waiting time.
Premium processing requires the applicant to pay a fee to speed up the adjudication of their immigration case. This will usually cost them $2,500. There is no fee for an expedite request.
To request premium processing, the applicant will have to submit forms to the immigration office, pay a fee, and wait for a response. Expediting does not have the same formal process. It doesn’t require filing a form, nor does the applicant receive a receipt notice for their request.
To request their cases to be expedited, applicants can simply call the immigration office and make a service request or send a letter in the mail, which explains the request and why it’s warranted.
Premium processing is not available for all types of immigration cases. It can only be requested for some categories of employment-based cases, such as:
- EB-2 petitions
- National interest waiver petitions
- Extraordinary ability petitions
- Most non-immigrant working visas (H-1B, the O-1, etc.)
Expedite requests have a little more leeway, made available for 1-30 petitions, especially work and travel documents, and I1-29 F petitions for a K-1 visa.
While anyone filing the supported employment-based immigration cases can request premium processing, expediting a case is stricter when it comes to eligibility. It can only be requested and approved if the following situations are present:
- Life and death emergency, such as if a relative has been stricken with a serious illness and the applicant needs to visit them.
- Severe financial loss or no income stream due to the case being held up at immigration
The applicant must also show sufficient proof of their emergency or financial losses to get their expedite request approved.
When an applicant submits a request for premium processing, they can typically expect a response from immigration in 15 days. For national interest waiver cases, the timeframe can be as long as 45 days.
If this period has elapsed and the applicant did not hear from immigration, they can get their money back from the immigration service.
On the contrary, there is no timeframe for expediting cases because of its lack of standard processing. Whether or not to respond to or approve the request is very arbitrary from the USCIS.
Which is Better?
Both premium processing and an expedite request have their pros and cons. Ultimately, the best option depends on an applicant’s case and unique situation.
Generally, regular processing is preferred over premium processing, especially if the case is weak and there’s no imminent need to get the case processed fast. It’s important to understand that immigration is understaffed. Since they lack the resources and manpower to adjudicate cases in 15 days, they will likely respond with a request for evidence instead of approval.
This won’t do anything to speed up the case and only results in the client losing $2,500 for the processing fee.
Expedite requests are harder to avail of because they have a set of eligibility requirements. But if the applicant is qualified for it, then they should find the strongest documents to support their eligibility to increase the chances of their request being approved.