United States – Premium Processing Service Now Available for E-3 Petitions

US – Premium Processing Available for E-3 Petitions

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that effective February, 24, 2021, employers can request premium processing service when submitting Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification on behalf of a beneficiary. This service was previously not available for petitions requesting E-3 visa classification.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that effective  February,  24, 2021, employers submitting Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification on behalf of a beneficiary will have the option to request premium processing service for expedited government processing of the visa application.1 This service was previously not available for petitions requesting E-3 visa classification. 

WHY THIS MATTERS

The expansion of the premium processing service to include requests for E-3 visa classification allows U.S. employers to more readily hire and extend the work authorization of Australian nationals who are currently maintaining valid nonimmigrant visa status in the United States. Unlike the H-1B specialty occupation visa, which allows an H-1B worker to commence employment with a new employer as soon as the H-1B Change of Employer petition is receipted by the USCIS, an E-3 specialty occupation worker must wait until the new employer’s E-3 visa application is approved prior to beginning employment.

Due to lengthy USCIS processing times, most employers would require E-3 visa applicants to travel abroad and attend a visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, visa appointments were then readily available and a new E-3 visa would be issued to the employee within five to seven business days. However, with disruptions to consular services worldwide and travel restrictions imposed by local governments as a result of the pandemic, such travel to facilitate an E-3 visa application was made more difficult.

Now that applications for E-3 visa class are eligible for premium processing, U.S. employers and their E-3 employees have a more streamlined process for applying for work authorization without the need to travel abroad. 

Details on Including E-3 Visa Petitions for Premium Processing

The E-3 visa classification is available to qualified Australian nationals seeking to fill a specialty occupation for a U.S. employer. Australian nationals who are outside of the United States can apply for E-3 nonimmigrant visas directly by attending a visa appointment at their local U.S. Embassy or Consulate. However, U.S. employers seeking to apply for or extend E-3 visa classification for an Australian national currently maintaining valid nonimmigrant visa status in the U.S., have the option to submit a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS. Under regular USCIS processing times, a Form I-129 application requesting E-3 visa classification or extension could take upwards of four to six months or longer to process.

Premium processing is an optional service offered by the USCIS that allows for expedited processing of certain employment-based visa petitions. The USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time to those petitioners or applicants who submit a Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and remit the government filing fee of USD 2,500. Under this expedited service, the USCIS must either approve, deny, or issue a request for evidence (RFE) on the application within the 15-day window of receiving the premium processing request.

USCIS’ announcement extending the premium processing service to E-3 petitions follows from new legislation passed in September 2020, which granted USCIS the authority to expand premium processing to other case types. For more information related to the new legislation regarding the proposed expansion of the premium processing program, please see GMS Flash Alert 2020-421 dated October 5, 2020.

With the addition of the E-3 visa class eligible for expedited processing, the premium processing service is now available to U.S. employers seeking to sponsor common temporary work permits on behalf of their employees including: H-1B specialty occupation workers; H-2B temporary non-agricultural workers; L-1 intra-company transferees; O-1 aliens with extraordinary ability; P artists, entertainers, and professional athletes; TN NAFTA professionals from Canada or Mexico, and now E-3 Australian specialty occupation workers. 2

KPMG LAW LLP NOTE

Employers may wish to consider using the USCIS premium processing service to expedite adjudication for E-3 petitions requiring notice of urgent approval. This would include visa petitions submitted on behalf of foreign national workers who face the possibility of losing work authorization due to lengthy USCIS adjudication times, as well as foreign national workers who are seeking to change employers requiring application approval to commence employment.

Our office is tracking USCIS announcements closely.  We will endeavor to keep readers of GMS Flash Alert posted on any important developments as and when they occur.

FOOTNOTES

* Please note that KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any immigration services.  However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.   

 

The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Canada.

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