Chapter 5 - Requests to Expedite Applications or Petitions
Immigration benefit requestors may request that USCIS expedite the adjudication of their applications or petitions. USCIS considers all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and may require additional documentation to support such requests. The decision to accommodate an expedite request is within the sole discretion of USCIS. Because granting an expedite request means that USCIS would adjudicate the requestor's benefit ahead of others who filed earlier, USCIS carefully weighs the urgency and merit of each expedite request.
Expedite Criteria or Circumstances
On or after June 9, 2021, USCIS may expedite a benefit request if it falls under one or more of the following criteria or circumstance:
Severe financial loss to a company or person, provided that the need for urgent action is not the result of the petitioner’s or applicant’s failure: (1) to timely file the benefit request; or (2) to timely respond to any requests for additional evidence;
Emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons;
Nonprofit organization (as designated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)) whose request is in furtherance of the cultural or social interests of the United States;
U.S. government interests (including cases identified as urgent by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of State (DOS), DHS, or other public safety or national security interests); or
Clear USCIS error.
Severe Financial Loss as a Basis for Expedited Treatment
A company can demonstrate that it would suffer a severe financial loss if it is at risk of failing, losing a critical contract, or required to lay off other employees. For example, a medical office may suffer severe financial loss if a gap in a doctor’s employment authorization would require the medical practice to lay off its medical assistants.
Job loss may be sufficient to establish severe financial loss for a person, depending on the individual circumstances. For example, the inability to travel for work that would result in job loss might warrant expedited treatment. The need to obtain employment authorization, standing alone, without evidence of other compelling factors, does not warrant expedited treatment.
In addition, severe financial loss may also be established where failure to expedite would result in a loss of critical public benefits or services.
Expedited Treatment Based on Emergency or Urgent Humanitarian Reason
In the context of an expedite request, humanitarian reasons are those related to human welfare. Examples may include, but are not limited to, illness, disability, extreme living conditions, death in the family, or a critical need to travel to obtain medical treatment in a limited amount of time.
An emergency may include an urgent need to expedite employment authorization for healthcare workers during a national emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, an expedite request may be considered under this criterion in instances where a vulnerable person’s safety may be compromised due to a breach of confidentiality if there is a delay in processing the benefit application. A benefit requestor’s desire to travel for vacation does not, in general, meet the definition of an emergency.
Nonprofit Organization Seeking Expedited Treatment
A nonprofit organization seeking to expedite a beneficiary’s benefit request must demonstrate an urgent need to expedite the case based on the beneficiary’s specific role within the nonprofit in furthering cultural or social interests (as opposed to the organization’s role in furthering social or cultural interests). Examples may include a medical professional urgently needed for medical research related to a specific “social” U.S. interest (such as the COVID-19 pandemic or other socially impactful research or project) or a university professor urgently needed to participate in a specific and imminent cultural program. Another example is a religious organization that urgently needs a beneficiary’s specific services and skill set to continue a vital social outreach program. In such instances, the religious organization must articulate why the respective beneficiary is specifically needed, as opposed to pointing to a general shortage alone.
Expedited Treatment Based on U.S. Government Interests
U.S. government interests may include, but are not limited to, cases identified as urgent by other government agencies, including labor and employment agencies, and public safety or national security interests.
For expedite requests made by a federal agency, involving other public safety or national security interests, the national interest need must be immediate and substantive. If the need for the action is not immediate, expedited processing is not warranted. A substantive need does not mean that a delay would pose existential or irreversible consequences to the national interests but rather that the case at hand is of a scale or a uniqueness that requires immediate action to prevent real and serious harm to U.S. interests.
Expedite requests from DOL, NLRB, DOJ, EEOC, DOS, DHS, or another government agency (federal, state, or local) must be made by a senior-level official of that agency. If the request relates to employment authorization, the request must demonstrate that the need for a person to be employment-authorized is mission-critical and goes beyond a general need to retain a particular worker or person. Examples include, but are not limited to, a noncitizen victim or witness cooperating with a federal, state, or local agency who is in need of employment authorization because the respective agency is seeking back pay or reinstatement in court proceedings.
How USCIS Assesses Requests for Expedited Treatment
Not every circumstance that fits under one of the above listed categories or examples necessarily results in expedited processing.
USCIS generally does not consider expedite requests for petitions and applications where Premium Processing Service is available. However, a petitioner that is designated as a nonprofit organization by the IRS seeking a beneficiary whose services are needed in furtherance of the cultural or social interests of the United States may request that the benefit it seeks be expedited without a fee, even if premium processing is available for that benefit. USCIS retains discretion to not accommodate that request. The same petitioner may also request premium processing for the benefit like any other petitioner if it chooses to do so.
Expedited processing of benefit requests for noncitizens with final orders of removal or noncitizens in removal proceedings is coordinated between USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
To increase efficiency in the review and processing of expedite requests, USCIS does not provide justification or otherwise respond regarding decisions on expedite requests.
In addition, some circumstances may prolong or inhibit USCIS’ ability to expedite certain benefit requests. For example, where an application or petition requires an on-site inspection, USCIS can only expedite that application or petition once the on-site inspection is complete. Another example of a circumstance that delays USCIS’ ability to expedite a benefit request is where the benefit is ancillary to a primary application or petition that is still pending. In such cases, requesting to expedite the primary application or petition (such as an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539) or Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129)) instead of requesting to expedite the ancillary application (such as an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765)) would better facilitate USCIS’ ability to process the ancillary application faster.
USCIS provides more information on how to make an expedite request on the How to Make an Expedite Request webpage.
[^ 1] For more information on expedite requests for adjudications of asylum applications, see the Affirmative Asylum Procedures Manual (PDF, 1.83 MB), Section III.B. Categories of Cases, Part 7, Expeditious Processing Required, and the Affirmative Asylum Interview Scheduling webpage. Expedite requests for refugee cases should be made to the applicable U.S. Department of State Resettlement Support Center, which facilitates informing the appropriate party of the expedite request.
[^ 2] On June 9, 2021, USCIS updated its policy to, among other things, clarify criteria and circumstances under which USCIS generally considers expedite requests; the update became effective upon publication. See USCIS Policy Alert, USCIS Expedite Criteria and Circumstances [PA-2021-12 (PDF, 293.62 KB)].
[^ 3] A timely filed request or response means a request or response that was filed by the relevant deadline; the request need not be filed at the earliest opportunity. If the requestor failed to timely file a request or response, the requestor must show that such failure was due to circumstances beyond the requestor’s control.
[^ 6] USCIS cannot expedite certain aspects of its processing, including on-site inspections.