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Premium Processing is a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) program that lets a petitioner – generally, the employer – pay more for a faster answer on certain types of cases. Where premium processing is offered and requested, USCIS will respond in some fashion within 15 days of receipt of the case.

No. Most type of cases can’t be; only two form types – what USCIS refers to as “product lines” – can be premium processed: the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker form used for most nonimmigrant work visas, and the I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker form used in connection with employment-based permanent residence cases. Not even all I-129 and I-140 filings are eligible – some case types which use these forms are ineligible, and even some categories which would normally be eligible may be unable to use the program in some instances. This is often because some factor would cause the case to take longer to adjudicate than would be possible within he mandated 15-day premium processing response time (having to obtain a copy of an original Labor Certification approval from DOL, having to perform a site visit, etc.)

No. Only a response of some form is promised – this can be an approval, but it can also be a denial or a Request for Evidence (“RFE”), demanding further documentation or explanation. Receipt by USCIS of a response to an RFE begins a new 15-day response period. The response can again be an approval, denial or RFE – second and third RFEs do happen, but are still relatively rare. Most cases will be approved or denied after a response to an initial RFE.

15 calendar days – just slightly more than two weeks.

In spring of 2013, Customs and Border Protection stopped issuing paper I-94s in most cases (refugees and asylees still get them). Now, people legally admitted to the US receive only a rubber stamp in their passport, but I-94s are still recorded electronically. An individual who has been admitted to the US can retrieve their I-94 and print it out from an online system by going here and entering the requested information. The information is only available until that person departs the US (similar to the way paper I-94 cards were collected upon departure). It is strongly recommended that everyone entering the US retrieve and keep a copy of their electronic I-94 after each entry, while they are still here in the US.

: We expect the system to improve over time, and for “Not Found” messages to happen less frequently. This doesn’t help right now, of course, if you are having trouble retrieving your I-94 from the system. The first thing to try is entering variations on your name. Although the system is supposed to reflect your name exactly as on your visa stamp or other relevant paperwork, a multi-part last name may have been entered as only the final name, with the first part included as a middle or first name. Other variations are possible as well. Hyphens can also confuse the system. If you still can’t locate your record after trying several variations on your name, you will need to contact the Customs and Border Enforcement site at the port of entry where you last came into the US. A spreadsheet of Deferred Inspection office contact details is available here (Excel document). Explain that you cannot locate your record in the online system and would like to be able to retrieve a copy. You will need to have your passport handy, as the Passport Number on the biographic page will be required as well as the date and place of entry. You should if possible have your carrier (flight, ship, train, bus, etc.) information close at hand as well, including name of carrier, individual number (flight number, train number, etc.) and date/time of arrival.

This is a form US Citizenship and Immigration Services uses to provide information. Officially, the name of the form is a “Notice of Action.” Here’s a list of just five of the things an I-797 might mean:
A “Receipt Notice” acknowledging that they have received a case, providing a case number that can be used for tracking and as a receipt for fees paid;
A “Biometrics Notice” providing an appointment date and time for fingerprinting and pictures as part of a background check (required for certain applications);
A “Transfer Notice” sending the case to another facility for adjudication or further processing;
An “Appointment Notice” setting a date for an in-person interview at a USCIS office; or
An “Approval Notice” for an application or petition (called a “Welcome Notice” in the case of approval of an I-485 Application to Adjust Status).
An I-797 Notice of Action can be issued for many different purposes – there is no one thing that “I-797” means unless specified (i.e.: “I-797 Receipt Notice” or “I-797 Appointment Notice”).

These mean almost nothing. Although frequently used on message boards and often referring to the order in which an I-797 Notice of Action has been received after filing a case, the order doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the significance of the I-797. In most cases, the initial I-797 (often referred to as “NOA 1”) will be a Receipt Notice, as described above. However, it could in theory also be a Rejection Notice where the initial filing isn’t accepted for processing. “NOA 2” – the second I-797 Notice of action Received after filing – may be a Biometrics Appointment Notice, a Transfer Notice, a Notice of an Appointment, an Approval, or other notice depending on the type of case, the specific facts of an individual case, and/or workload or policy shifts at USCIS. Referring to a USCIS notice by “NOA number” is therefore confusing, potentially dangerous, and essentially useless without further specifics on what the I-797 form is actually about.

“Status” in the immigration context refers to an individual’s legal position with regard to their presence in the U.S. “In status” means that an individual has a legal right to be present in the U.S. under existing law, and “out of status” means that an individual does not currently have a legal right to be present in the U.S.

Not necessarily. A person can be “in status” in a number of different ways, among them: by having U.S. citizenship, by having permanent residence (a “green card”), by having a valid unexpired non-immigrant visa (there are several types of these) without having violated the terms of the visa, by having been Paroled into the U.S., by being granted refugee or asylee status, etc.