House passes emergency bill to expand USCIS premium-processing revenues, though Senate path unclear

24 Aug 20

UNITED STATES

On Saturday, the House of Representatives passed the “Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act” (HR 8089) by unanimous consent, ahead of planned furloughs by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The bill’s path forward through the Senate is not yet clear. The agency has been seeking $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress since May, claiming that COVID-19 has reduced the agency’s revenues.

Key points:

  • The bill would increase the agency’s revenue by raising the premium processing fee from $1,440 to $2,500 for immigration benefit categories that are currently designated for the service. It would not change the 15-day timeframe. The fee would be $1,500 for H-2B and R-1 categories.
  • The bill would still allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to suspend premium processing, but “only if circumstances prevent the completion of processing of a significant number of such requests within the required period.”
  • It would require USCIS to expand premium processing to temporary work visa petitions and their dependents; EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant petitions; applications to extend nonimmigrant status; employment authorization document applications; and would allow the agency to extend premium processing to other immigration benefit types it deems appropriate.
  • The agency would need to go through notice-and-comment rulemaking to expand to these additional filing categories, unless it meets certain fee and timeframe requirements outlined in the bill, which would allow them to begin premium processing without a regulation.
  • USCIS furloughs are scheduled to take effect August 30. Lawmakers from both parties have sent letters to agency leadership urging them not to proceed with the furloughs.

BAL Analysis: The path forward for the bill remains unclear. The Senate is not currently in session and the White House has not weighed in on the legislation. It is too early to predict whether this will affect the agency’s plans to begin the furloughs. BAL is closely monitoring this issue and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

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