How can I expedite my family immigration application?

Question: My husband and I filed an I-130 relative petition 8 months ago. We have since experienced financial and emotional turmoil and we’re going to be evicted from our home if we do not pay the rent in one week. I’m the only one working at this time since my husband cannot work without authorization. How can we get our petition expedited? Do we have to pay extra for that to happen?

Answer: USCIS considers all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis. USCIS may require additional documentation to support such requests and has the sole discretion to decide whether to accommodate a request. Unfortunately, the need to obtain employment authorization by itself, without evidence of other compelling factors, does not warrant expedited treatment.

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. Below is a list of expedite criteria or circumstances that you must meet in order to be considered for an expedited request:

1. Severe financial loss to a company or person

You can request USCIS expedite your application if you can show 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; 

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. 

2. Emergency or Urgent Humanitarian Reasons

Emergency or urgent humanitarian reasons 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. 

3. Nonprofit Organizations

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). 

4. 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. The national interest must be immediate and substantive. 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.

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. 

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. 

How do I submit a request to expedite?

You can generally request expedited processing by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) or by asking Emma after you have obtained a receipt notice. The USCIS Contact Center will not be able to refer the expedite request to the appropriate office without a receipt number. 

A decision on an expedite request is not an approval or a denial of the underlying benefit request. The expedite decision simply informs the requestor whether USCIS will take the benefit request out of date order and issue a decision (approval or denial) faster than the normal processing time.

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