Between 2014 and 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) earned nearly $2.4 billion in premium processing fees paid by American employers.
USCIS often takes months to process employment-based visas (including E, H, L, O, and I-140). H-1B visas, for example, take 9-12 months, which is too long for a business to wait, especially if the employee is changing their location or job. If the company wants to expedite the process, they can pay a premium processing fee of $1,440 and receive a decision in 15 business days.
Even those who pay the premium processing fee, however, may experience a 1-2 month delay if USCIS submits a Request for Evidence. USCIS issues this request nearly 50% of the time for H-1B petitions.
The 15-day turnaround is particularly essential for employees because of high denial rates. In 2019, for example, the denial rate for H-1B petitions was 21% for initial employment and 12% for continuing employment. If an employee accepts a job offer in the United States and moves before they receive their visa, a denial would render them both unemployed and undocumented.
Critics say the agency is likely slowing the adjudication process to compel businesses to pay for premium processing. Because USCIS is the only agency that can process these applications, it benefits from monopolization.
In the private sector, consumers can still choose other businesses rather than the company that has a monopoly over the industry. The competitive market compels businesses to innovate and improve both products and services.
The government, in contrast, does not have this motivation. For immigration purposes, applicants have no choice but to go through USCIS. The drastic difference in processing time suggests that USCIS is taking advantage of its exclusive control.
USCIS has justified the revenue because the agency is hiring staff and investing in new technology. They have also increased the number of issued Requests for Evidence and required interviews for certain immigration benefits. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has diverted $200 million in fees collected by USCIS, using it not for employment visa processing but for ICE operations in 2020. This further proves the administration’s agenda of prioritizing border patrol and deportation efforts over lawful and economically beneficial employment immigration.
Let Gambacorta Law Address Your Concerns
Are you hoping to hire outside of the U.S., or are you a foreign national hoping to obtain an employment-based visa? Gambacorta Law has years of experience helping American businesses and foreign employees accomplish their goals. Our team can help you apply for a visa and submit all necessary information to avoid additional delays, and we understand how to mitigate the risk of petition denial. Additionally, we can help you manage an application denial and resulting immigration consequences if you already moved to the United States.