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The Need for Speed: USCIS Updates Policy Guidance Clarifying Expedite Requests

Posted by Hugo R. Valverde, Managing Attorney, and Anna D. Colby, Attorney Social Media Marketing Manager | Apr 14, 2024 | 0 Comments

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

16.5 months. 

That's how long USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) estimates a travel document filing will take to process. 

We've talked before about the extreme backlog that USCIS faces in processing filings, and a travel document is just one example of the excessive lengths of time that many petitions are taking right now.   

Depending on what immigration petition you have, and how much money you're willing to spend, you can file certain immigration documents and receive them back within weeks by filing a premium processing request. But only a few petitions are eligible for that, and the fee for it ranges from $1,685 to $2,805. 

For some filings, and for very good reasons, an expedite request may be made, which is free to file, but will only be granted in certain circumstances. USCIS has clear guidelines for what kind of situation may warrant the granting of an expedite request, and has published an updated policy guidance to clarify how the agency considers requests related to government interests and requests related to emergencies or urgent humanitarian situations, including travel-related requests. 

As for government interests, the update clarifies that USCIS will generally defer to that agency or department's assessment when an expedite request is made by a federal government agency or department based on government interests.

The other type of expedite request that the updated policy guidance speaks to is something much more common for our Valverde Law clients: travel-related requests

USCIS clarified that it will consider expedite requests for applicants of Form I-131 travel documents “when they have a pressing or critical need to leave the United States, whether the need to travel relates to an unplanned or planned event, such as a professional, academic, or personal commitment.”

When the travel need is related to a planned event, USCIS considers whether:

  • The applicant timely filed Form I-131; and

  • Processing times would prevent USCIS from issuing the travel document by the planned date of departure.   

In most situations, evidence has to be provided that an expedite is warranted. This can usually be shown by documentation and/or letters, but specific examples are listed here

USCIS is strongly encouraging applicants to make expedite requests online now, in a further push for people to use their MyUSCIS accounts for agency communication and filings. 

If you have questions about filing an immigration filing please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.

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