U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is suspending premium processing for all employment-based visa petitions and green card applicants.
The agency announced Friday the “immediate and temporary” suspension of the fast-track service for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice in response to the new coronavirus.
Premium processing allows employers to pay an extra fee for their petitions to be serviced within 15 days. Last year, the average processing time for Form I-129—which is used for H-1B high-skilled guestworkers, intracompany transfer L visas, extraordinary ability O visas, and trade agreement TN visas, among others—was five months.
The agency said it wouldn’t accept any new requests for premium processing, but will process any previously accepted request. Petitioners who already have filed a Form I-129 or I-140 using premium processing but haven’t received agency action on their case within 15 days will receive a refund, USCIS said.
The agency also noted that it will return the $1,140 filing fee for all petitions requesting premium processing that were mailed before March 20 but weren’t yet accepted.
Flexibility in Signatures
The USCIS announced in a separate notice it also will be accepting all benefit forms and documents with reproduced original signatures for submissions dated March 21, 2020, and beyond.
The change in rules to allow for reproduced signatures, instead of the required “wet” original signature, will be in place “for the duration of the National Emergency,” the agency said.
Immigration attorney organizations had expressed concern that the requirements were putting them and their clients at greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus.