Under limited circumstances, an applicant or petitioner for a benefit adjudicated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may make a request to expedite the processing of the application or petition at issue. Please note that expedited processing is not the same thing as premium processing. In this article, we will examine the rules for qualifying for expedited processing of an application or petition with the USCIS.
This article will rely on the USCIS Policy Manual (USCIS PM) for guidance on expedited processing [see 1 USCIS-PM A 12].
The USCIS may expedite an application or petition if it meets at least one of the following criteria:
- 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;
- USCIS error; or
- Compelling interest of USCIS.
The USCIS PM offers examples of situations in which expedited processing may be appropriate under four of the seven criteria listed above. Please note that these examples are not exhaustive, and that the USCIS will make a determination on a case-by-case basis upon receiving an expedited processing request.
Regarding the “emergency situation” ground, the USCIS PM explains that an example of a qualifying scenario would be if the applicant for the USCIS benefit is “gravely ill.”
For the “humanitarian reasons” ground, the USCIS PM explains that the outbreak of war in the applicant's home country would be an example of a qualifying scenario.
The USCIS PM explains that an example of a situation in which a nonprofit organization could qualify for expedited processing would be if it was broadcasting in regional areas to promoted democratic interests.
Finally, in order for expedited processing to be granted for a Department of Defense petition or for a national interest situation, the request must be made by a U.S. government entity and it must state that delay would be detrimental to the government.
Unavailability of Expedited Processing For Petitions For Which Premium Processing is Available
In general, the USCIS will not consider petitions that have Premium Processing Service available for expedited processing. The Premium Processing Service may be used for most Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker petitions and most Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker petitions. A premium processing request for a Form I-129 is filed on the Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.
There is a limited exception to the inapplicability of expedited processing to Form I-129 petitions when the Premium Processing Service is available. The USCIS PM explains that a in a situation where the petitioner is a not-for-profit organization designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and when it is “acting in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States,” expedited processing will still be available upon request.
Additionally, expedited processing may be made available for Form I-129 petitions for which the Premium Processing Service is suspended. For example, see our article on the USCIS policies regarding the temporary suspension of the Premium Processing Service for H1B petitions effective April 3, 2017 [see article].
Making an Expedite Request
The USCIS PM provides two avenues for making an expedite request for a USCIS application or petition.
Firstly, a customer may contact the USCIS's National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-373-5283. Upon receiving the request, the NCSC will forward the Service Request to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the application or petition.
Alternatively, the customer may also visit a local USCIS office by either scheduling an InfoPass appointment or by writing a letter to the field office or service center. The USCIS PM explains that applicants or petitioners overseas should submit their expedite requests directly to the USCIS office with jurisdiction over their applications or petitions.
Burden of Proof and Adjudication Standard
The USCIS PM makes clear that the burden of proof rests with the applicant or the petitioner to demonstrate that one or more of the expedite criteria have been met.
The USCIS will review each expedite request on a case-by-case basis. The decision whether to grant or deny an expedite request is solely within the discretion of the USCIS. The USCIS reserves the right to request documentation supporting the request to expedite an application or petition.
The USCIS allows for expedited processing of most USCIS applications or petitions in very limited circumstances. An applicant or petitioner for USCIS benefits should consult with an experienced immigration attorney throughout the application or petitioning process. If an applicant or petitioner believes that he or she may be eligible for expedited processing, an attorney will be able to assess the situation and determine whether the circumstances may meet one or more of the expedite criteria, and if so, help the applicant or petitioner compile the documentation to demonstrate eligibility for expedited processing.