The premium processing expansion was included in Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act, signed into law on October 1, 2020. The law authorized USCIS to implement a permanent expansion of premium processing to include additional immigration applications and petitions. Applications for employment authorization (Form I-765) and applications to change or extend status for the dependents of H-1B, L-1 and other principal nonimmigrants (Form I-539) – which are currently facing significant backlogs – were included in this list. In February 2021, USCIS expanded premium service to E-3 petitions, but since then, the agency has not initiated expansion to any other case types.
The October 2020 law also limits USCIS’ ability to suspend premium processing, permitting suspensions only where the agency cannot complete a “significant number” of premium requests within the required time period. Further, it requires the agency to provide petitioners and applicants with “direct and reliable” access to premium case status information and the ability to communicate with premium processing units at USCIS Service Centers.