USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for Expedite Requests

On March 21, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying certain criteria for expedite requests. The update also provides additional guidance on how to submit expedite requests to the USCIS and how they are processed.

Overview of USCIS Policy on Expedite Requests

The USCIS generally will only consider an expedite request if it is made on an application or petition that is not eligible for premium processing service, or in limited circumstances where the benefit requestor is a nonprofit organization. Expedite requests are discretionary, and the USCIS historically has been reluctant to grant expedite requests, limiting the eligibility criteria and requiring substantial documentation and evidence for any such requests. These criteria include urgent humanitarian reasons, compelling U.S. government interests, clear USCIS error, severe financial loss to a company or person, or for nonprofit organizations seeking to further the cultural or social interests of the United States.

Expedite Requests by a Governmental Entity

The new guidance explains how a U.S. federal, state, tribal, territorial, or local governmental entity may make an expedite request to further an urgent interest, including those which relate to public interest, public safety, national interest, or national security.

A U.S. governmental entity may request expedited processing for an individual’s employment authorization if the entity can show that the individual’s work is critical, and beyond that of a general employee. When a governmental entity makes an adequately supported expedite request, the USCIS generally will defer to the government’s assessment regarding the urgent need.

Expedite Requests for Travel Documents

The update provides new guidance for how the USCIS may grant an expedite request of an application for travel document (form I-131), for emergencies or urgent humanitarian situations, including illness, disability, death of a family member or close friend, or extreme living conditions caused by natural catastrophes or armed conflict. Vacation typically is not considered an urgent need to travel.

Under certain circumstances, an individual may request expedited processing of an I-131 for a planned event when standard processing times extend beyond the date of the event. For such requests, the USCIS will consider whether an individual timely filed the I-131 and timely responded to any request for evidence issued on the application.

Expedite Requests for Clear USCIS Error

The guidance further provides that clear USCIS error may be a sufficient reason for an expedite request when there is an urgent need to correct the error. For example, if the USCIS causes a travel document to be issued with incorrect information and the error prevents an individual from traveling, the USCIS may process the replacement travel document on an expedited basis if requested by the applicant.

USCIS Expedite Request Processing Procedures

The update also explains that while an individual’s circumstances are the substantive factors the USCIS considers for expedite requests, there are certain procedural factors that may impact the USCIS’s ability to grant a request. These include, where there is outstanding evidence required to grant a particular benefit, there is a pending background check for the beneficiary, an on-site inspection is required, or the benefit request is dependent on a principal beneficiary’s application or petition. Although the USCIS typically will respond to expedite requests, a reason generally will not be given if the request is denied.

How to Make an Expedite Request

To make an expedite request, an individual can either call the USCIS Contact Center or use Ask Emma, the virtual assistant tool on the USCIS website. An individual typically must also provide supporting documentation to substantiate the basis for the request.


The recent updates to the USCIS Policy Manual provide additional details on how the USCIS evaluates expedite requests, and how such requests can be submitted. Yet, if the USCIS were to take steps to improve processing times overall, this would inevitably reduce the need for applicants and petitioners to submit expedite requests on pending cases.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.