New Actions to Reduce Backlogs, Expand Premium Processing, and Provide Relief to Work Permit Holders

Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick talks about an exciting new announcement released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regarding new initiatives the agency is taking to reduce the application backlogs, expand premium processing to broader categories of applications, and provide much needed relief to those waiting for their work permits to be processed.


As of March 29, 2022, USCIS is unveiling a trio of actions that will help improve the processing of applications and petitions currently awaiting adjudication by the agency. As you may know at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS along with other government agencies suspended in-person services at its field offices and Application Support Centers (ASCs) nationwide to help slow the spread of the virus. The agency also took precautions to slow its spread by limiting the number of people that could enter federal buildings for immigration interviews. The consequence of these closures has been a backlog of cases across the board that the agency has been working to reduce.

To help ease the number of pending cases at USCIS, the agency has introduced 3 new actions.

What are these new actions all about?

(1) Cycle Time Goals

First, the agency has said that it will be implementing agency-wide goals to reduce the substantial backlogs.

USCIS has established a new system known as “internal cycle time goals,” to process applications that remain pending with USCIS. According to USCIS, these “internal cycle time goals,” are internal metrics that the agency will now be using to help guide the reduction of the current backlog. These cycle times will determine how long it will take USCIS to process immigration benefits going forward.

To accomplish the stated “cycle time goals,” the agency has said that it plans to increase its capacity, adopt technological improvements (such as e-filing systems), train, and hire more staff to ensure that applications are processed within the stated “cycle time goals.” USCIS estimates that these new actions will help the agency reach its stated cycle time goals by the end of fiscal year 2023.

For easy reference, the new USCIS cycle time goals are listed down below.

The new cycle time goals provided by USCIS are as follows:

  • Processing of I-129 premium processing cases – 2 weeks
  • Processing of I-140 premium processing cases –2 weeks
  • Processing of I-129 non-premium processing cases –2 months
  • Processing of I-765, I-131 advance parole, I-539, I-824 applications – 3 months

Other types of applications – 6 months including

  • N-400
  • N-600
  • N-600K
  • I-485
  • I-140 non-premium processing
  • I-130 Immediate Relatives
  • I-129F Fiancé(e)
  • I-290B
  • I-360
  • I-102
  • I-526
  • I-600
  • I-600A
  • I-600K
  • I-730
  • I-800
  • I-800A
  • I-90
  • I-821D Renewals

While at the outset it might appear that these goals are very ambitious, the agency is taking a step in the right direction by publishing these internal cycle goals and making a commitment toward decisive action to finally drive down the application backlogs.

(2) Expansion of Premium Processing Services

Second, the agency has published a final rule in the Federal Register that will expand premium processing service to other types of immigration benefits. The bad news is that premium processing service will be expanded on a gradual basis starting within the next 2 months up until 2025.

Once implemented, the final rule would expand premium processing service to the following types of applications:

  • Expansion of premium processing service to Form I-140 for EB-1 multinational executive or manager and EB-2 advanced degree or exceptional ability seeking national interest waiver (NIW).
    • Note: Premium processing service is already available for EB-1A aliens of extraordinary ability and outstanding professors and researchers, and other types of workers. For a complete list of visa classifications for which premium processing is already available click here.
    • COST: Under the final rule, the premium processing fee for these applicants would be $2,500 and estimated processing time within 45 days.
  • Expansion of premium processing service to Form I-539 change of status to F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, or M-2 NIV status, or change of status to or extension of stay in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-4, L-2, O-3, P-4, R-2 NIV status.
    • COST: The fee for this service would be $1,750 and estimated processing time within 30 days.
  • Expansion of premium processing service to the Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) application.
    • Note: The first phase of the rollout will begin for those under the Optional Practical Training Program, and gradually expand to other types of Form I-765 work permit applications
    • COST: Under the final rule, the premium processing service fee would be $1,500 and estimated processing time within 30 days.

(3) Employment Authorization Documents (EADs)

Finally, the agency plans to improve the processing of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs).

USCIS has announced that it is committed to extending the automatic revalidation of work permits beyond 180 days. The agency is also streamlining many EAD processes, including extending validity periods for certain EADs and providing expedited work authorization renewals for healthcare and childcare workers.

A temporary final rule named “Temporary Increase of the Automatic Extension Period of Employment Authorization and Documentation for Certain Renewal Applicants,” has been issued to ensure that certain individuals do not lose their work authorization status while their applications are pending.

Moreover, on January 31st of this year, USCIS and CBP began taking steps toward recognizing the employment authorization of L and E dependent spouses by issuing the “L2S” and “E2S” notations on their I-94 arrival/departure records upon their entry to the U.S, without requiring such dependent spouses to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Our law office will continue to monitor these developments as time goes on to bring you the most up to date information. Please remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel and continue to visit our blog for more updates just like this one.

Questions? If you would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

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