USCIS Expands Premium Processing for OPT/STEM
On March 6, USCIS announced the expansion of premium processing for certain F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) and F-1 students seeking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) OPT extensions who have a pending Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and wish to request a premium processing upgrade. Online filing, as well as paper filing of Premium Processing is now also available to F-1 students in these categories.
Premium processing expansion for certain F-1 students will occur in phases, and students requesting premium processing should not file before these dates:
- Beginning March 6, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, for certain F-1 students who already have a pendingForm I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, if they are filing under one of the following categories:
- (c)(3)(A) – Pre-Completion OPT;
- (c)(3)(B) – Post-Completion OPT; and
- (c)(3)(C) – 24-Month Extension of OPT for STEM students.
- Beginning April 3, USCIS will accept Form I-907 requests, filed either via paper form or online, for F-1 students in the above categories when filed together with Form I-765.
USCIS will reject premium processing requests filed before these dates.
USCIS Issues New Policy Guidance for Employer’s Ability to Pay
On March 15, USCSIS updated policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual to address the analysis of an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage for certain employment-based immigrant petitions. Employers seeking to classify prospective employees under 1st, 2nd, and 3rd preference employment-based immigrant classifications that require a job offer must demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the beneficiary as of the priority date of the immigrant petition. The relevant regulation requires the employer to submit annual reports, federal tax returns, or audited financial statements for each available year from the priority date. If the employer has 100 or more workers, it may instead include a financial officer statement attesting to the petitioner’s ability to pay the proffered wage.
An employer may also submit additional evidence such as profit and loss statements, bank account records, or personnel records. Many employers satisfy the ability to pay requirement by also submitting payroll records demonstrating that, during the relevant time period, they have been paying the employee at least the proffered wage indicated on the Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (Form I-140). USCIS is updating its guidance to discuss in more detail various types of evidence and explain how USCIS reviews all evidence relevant to the employer’s financial strength and the significance of its business activities. This guidance, contained in Volume 6 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately and applies prospectively to petitions filed on or after March 15, 2023. The guidance contained in the Policy Manual is controlling and supersedes any related prior guidance.
Highlights: • Provides that USCIS reviews all evidence relevant to the employer’s financial strength and the significance of its business activities. • Explains that an employer must submit one of the three forms of initial required evidence listed in the regulation but may also include other types of relevant evidence. • Discusses each form of initial required evidence listed in the regulation and several other forms of additional evidence employers might submit to establish their ability to pay the proffered wage. • Explains how USCIS analyzes evidence and issues relevant to an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage, such as the petitioner’s current employment of the beneficiary, prorating the proffered wage for the priority date year, multiple beneficiaries, successors-in-interest, and non-profit organizations. • Adds information about types of business structures to help officers better understand the types of petitioning employers and the evidence they may submit to establish their ability to pay the wage.