USCIS Fee Hike Takes Effect April 1, 2024
U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) has moved forward with its plan to increase its fees, with new fees becoming effective on April 1, 2023. It has been eight years since the last fee increase, and USCIS has stated that a significant increase is necessary to more fully recover operating costs and better manage its workload. The increases are in fact significant with some common forms, such as the I-129 for H-1 classifications, going up by 70% or more.
Contact us with questions about the new fees.
USCIS to Implement “Beneficiary-Centric” Selection Process for H-1B Registrations
On February 2, 2024, in a step designed to reduce the potential for fraud in the H-1B registration process, the Department of Homeland Security (DOH) will release a final rule amending its regulations, which will be effective 30 days after publication. The final rule provides for a beneficiary-centric process for H-1B registrations, where USCIS will make selections by unique beneficiary rather than registration. The new process is intended to reduce the potential for gaming the system and make it more likely that each beneficiary will have the same chance of being selected, regardless of how many registrations are submitted on their behalf. The final rule also codifies USCIS’ ability to deny or revoke H-1B petitions where the underlying registration contained false attestation.
USCIS has also announced:
- the initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon (EST) on March 6, 2024, and run though noon (EST) on March 22, 2024. USCIS will now require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information; and
- the registration fee of $10 will remain in effect for the registration period from March 6, 2024 to March 22, 2024;
- the registration fee of $10 will remain in effect for the registration period starting on March 22, 2024;
- on February 28, 2024, USCIS will launch new organizational accounts in the USCIS online account that will allow multiple people within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations and H-1B petitions; and
- for FY 2025, there will be start date flexibility for certain H-1B cap-subject petitions, permitting filing with start dates that are after October 1 of the relevant fiscal year, consistent with current USCIS policy.
Contact us with questions about the H-1B registration period.
Much-Anticipated Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Begins
The Department of State (DOS) Stateside Visa Renewal pilot program began on January 29, 2024 and will end on April 1, 2024. Participation is limited to principal H-1B applicants who, among other things:
- are seeking to renew an H-1B visa during the pilot phase (H-4 dependents are excluded from the pilot);
- are renewing a prior H-1B visa issued by Mission Canada or Mission India;
- have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, were most recently admitted to the United States H-1B status, and are maintaining H-1B status in the United States; and
- qualify as someone whose period of authorized H-1B status admission has not expired.
Applications can be submitted online, where applicants will be required to
- select the consular post of their most recent H-1B visa issuance (either Canada or India); and answer a series of questions to determine their eligibility to participate in the pilot.
Applicants who are determined eligible will need to:
- complete and submit the electronic Form DS-160;
- pay a non-refundable, non-transferable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) fee online using a major debit or credit card; and
- retrieve through the online portal instructions concerning how to send their passports and other required documents to the DOS via the U.S. Postal Service or another courier service. These documents will be returned to the applicant via USPS or a courier service.
Contact us with questions about the pilot program.
DOS Update Shows Marked Improvement in Visa Processing Capacity in 2023
Published on January 2, 2024, the Department of State’s (DOS) Worldwide Visa Operations: Update indicates that the DOS’ post-COVID capacity has been is is recovering faster than projected. Notably, the DOS issued more nonimmigrant visas (NIVs) worldwide in 2023 than in any year since 2015. The DOS attributes its success to efficiencies made possible by interview waivers and other initiatives.
Contact us with questions about visa processing times.
USCIS Issued Guidance on Establishing Ability to Pay for Certain Employment-Based Immigrant Visa Petitions
Employers seeking to classify employees under the first-, second-, and third-preference employment-based immigrant visa classifications that require a job offer must demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the beneficiary. This obligation extends from the priority date of the immigrant petition until the beneficiary obtains lawful permanent residence.
The updated guidance provided by USCIS specifically addresses situations where the beneficiary of a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, moves or “ports” to a new employer while the Form I-140 is pending. In such cases, USCIS will evaluate the petitioner’s ability-to-pay requirements only by reviewing the facts from the priority date until the filing of the Form I-140 (not through to the approval of the I-485, or the date when lawful permanent residence was granted).
Contact us with questions about demonstrating an employer’s ability to pay the wage in an employment-based immigrant visa petition.
USCIS to Launch Organizational Accounts and E-Filing Capabilities in February 2024
USCIS has announced that it is rolling out administrative (or organizational) accounts for H-1B processing this month. The organizational accounts will be for non-cap filings and the fiscal year 2025 H-1B cap season. The introduction of organizational accounts will allow multiple individuals within an organization, such as a company, and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations and I-129/I-907 filings.
Contact us with questions about organizational accounts and/or H-1B filings.
USCIS Issues Guidance on Untimely Filed Extensions of Stay and Change of Status Requests
In January 2023, USCIS issued guidance addressing when the agency may excuse untimely filed extensions-of-stay and change-of-status requests. In general, USCIS does not approve such requests when a person fails to maintain their status or when the status expired before the filing date of the application or petition. If certain conditions are met, however, USCIS has the discretion to excuse a failure to file before the period of authorized status expired.
The new policy guidance expands USCIS’ discretion, permitting the agency to consider circumstances in which delays in filing were due to:
- slowdowns or work stoppages involving strikes, lockouts, or other labor disputes; or
- a lapse in government funding supporting those adjudications.
Contact us with question about USCIS potentially excusing late filings.
Victoria Donoghue has an extensive background in immigration law, advising clients on the full range of issues related to employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. Her experience includes handling complex Requests for ...
Abigail Walsh has over 20 years’ experience in a wide range of immigration matters. She represents multinational and domestic corporations, their employees and private individuals in business immigration matters before U.S ...