USCIS Announces FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period and Online Filing of H-1B Petitions

From USCIS — January 31, 2024

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule to strengthen the integrity of and reduce the potential for fraud in the H-1B registration process, including by reducing the potential for gaming the registration system and ensuring each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf.

USCIS is also announcing the initial registration period dates for the fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap, and the launch of an online filing option for Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for H-1B petitioners.

“We’re always looking for ways to bolster integrity and curtail the potential for fraud while improving and streamlining our application processes,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “The improvements in these areas should make H-1B selections more equitable for petitioners and beneficiaries and will allow for the H-1B process to be fully electronic from registration, if applicable, until final decision and transmission of approved petitions to the Department of State.”

H-1B Registration Final Rule

This final rule contains provisions that will create a beneficiary-centric selection process for registrations by employers, codify start date flexibility for certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, and add more integrity measures related to the registration process.

Under the beneficiary centric process, registrations will be selected by unique beneficiary rather than by registration. This new process is designed to reduce the potential for fraud and ensure each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf by an employer. Starting with the FY 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary. The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the United States if issued an H-1B visa. Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document.

USCIS is also clarifying requirements regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap to permit filing with requested start dates that are after Oct. 1 of the relevant fiscal year, consistent with current policy.

Additionally, the H-1B final rule codifies USCIS’ ability to deny or revoke H-1B petitions where the underlying registration contained a false attestation or was otherwise invalid. Also under the new rule, USCIS may deny or revoke the approval of an H-1B petition if it determines that the fee associated with the registration is declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid after submission.

USCIS has also announced the Fee Schedule final rule. That rule will go into effect after the initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap. Therefore, the registration fee during the registration period starting in March 2024, will remain $10.

A new edition of Form I-129 with the H-1B Registration final rule and Fee Schedule final rule changes will soon be available to preview on uscis.gov (edition date 04/01/24). On April 1, 2024, only the 04/01/24 edition of Form I-129 will be accepted.

The H-1B Registration final rule makes final some provisions proposed in the Oct. 23, 2023, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Note that DHS intends to publish a separate final rule to address the remaining provisions contained in the NPRM.

FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period

The initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 6, 2024, and run through noon Eastern on March 22, 2024. During this period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, if applicable, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.  

Organizational Accounts and Online Filing for Forms I-129 and I-907

On Feb. 28, 2024, USCIS will launch the previously announced 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, H-1B petitions, and any associated Form I-907.

Also on Feb. 28, USCIS will launch online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions. On April 1, USCIS will begin accepting online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.

Petitioners will continue to have the option of filing a paper Form I-129 H-1B petition and any associated Form I-907 if they prefer. However, during the initial launch of organizational accounts, users will not be able to link paper-filed Forms I-129 and I-907 to their online accounts.

As a reminder, USCIS recently announced a final rule that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, to adjust for inflation, effective Feb. 26, 2024. If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after Feb. 26, 2024, with the incorrect filing fee, we will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL), the postmark date is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

USCIS To Increase Filing Fees April 1, 2024

From USCIS — January 31, 2024

On January 31, 2024, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule to adjust certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees for the first time since 2016. The final rule will allow USCIS to recover a greater share of its operating costs and support more timely processing of new applications.

The final rule is the result of a comprehensive fee review, as required by law, and follows the January 2023 publication of a notice of proposed rulemaking. The review concluded that the current fee schedule falls far short in recovering the full cost of agency operations, including the necessary expansion of humanitarian programs, federally mandated pay raises, additional staffing requirements, and other essential investments.

“For the first time in over seven years, USCIS is updating our fees to better meet the needs of our agency, enabling us to provide more timely decisions to those we serve,” said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou. “Despite years of inadequate funding, the USCIS workforce has made great strides in customer service, backlog reduction, implementing new processes and programs, and upholding fairness, integrity, and respect for all we serve.”

USCIS received over 5,400 unique public comments in response to its January 2023 notice of proposed rulemaking. USCIS took into consideration comments and feedback received during the proposed rulemaking process. Acknowledging this feedback from stakeholders, the final fee rule includes several important updates since the initial rulemaking. The final rule:

Every fee in the final rule is the same or lower than in the proposed rule. For most individual filers, the final rule limits how much newly established fees may increase. Under the final rule, the new fees will not increase by more than 26%, which is equivalent to the increase in the Consumer Price Index since the last fee rule was issued in 2016.

With the new revenues the rule will generate, USCIS will start using innovative solutions to improve customer experience and stem backlog growth. Although the fee increases announced today will allow USCIS to better offset overall costs, congressional funding continues to be necessary to sustainably and fully address the increased volume of caseloads associated with recent border crossers, including by hiring additional USCIS personnel to help right-size a system that was not built to manage the numbers of cases USCIS receives.

The new fees under the final rule will go into effect on April 1, 2024.

USCIS encourages stakeholders to visit the Frequently Asked Questions page on its website to view a full list of the revised forms that will go into effect on April 1, 2024, along with the new fees. USCIS will accept prior editions of most forms during a grace period from April 1, 2024, through June 3, 2024. During this grace period, USCIS will accept both previous and new editions of certain forms, filed with the correct fee.

There will be no grace period for the following new forms, however, because they must be revised with a new fee calculation. Filers should click the links below to access a preview version of each new form edition before the April 1, 2024, effective date:

USCIS will use the postmark date of a filing to determine which form version and fees are correct but will use the receipt date for purposes of any regulatory or statutory filing deadlines.

Premium Processing Fees Will Increase 2/26/24

File Now to Avoid Paying Higher Fees!

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just announced a final rule that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, a Request for Premium Processing for all eligible forms and categories. On February 26, 2024, the new fees will go into effect.

The adjustment will increase certain premium processing fees (see breakdown below.) According to the Department of Homeland of Security, revenue generated by this premium processing fee increase will be used to provide premium processing services; make improvements to adjudication processes; respond to adjudication demands, including reducing benefit request processing backlogs; and otherwise fund USCIS adjudication and naturalization services.

This table outlines the fee increase based on the USCIS form number and benefit request:

FormPrevious FeeNew Fee
Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker$1,500 (H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status) $2,500 (All other available Form I-129 classifications (E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, TN-1, and TN-2))$1,685 (H-2B or R-1 nonimmigrant status) $2,805 (All other available Form I-129 classifications (E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, TN-1, and TN-2))
Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker$2,500 (Employment-based (EB) classifications E11, E12, E21 (non-NIW), E31, E32, EW3, E13 and E21 (NIW))$2,805 (Employment-based (EB) classifications E11, E12, E21 (non-NIW), E31, E32, EW3, E13 and E21 (NIW))
Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status$1,750 (Form I-539 classifications F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, J-2, E-1D, E-2D, E-3D, L-2, H-4, O-3, P-4, and R-2)$1,965 (Form I-539 classifications F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, J-2, E-1D, E-2D, E-3D, L-2, H-4, O-3, P-4, and R-2)
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization$1,500 (Certain F-1 students with categories C03A, C03B, C03C)$1,685 (Certain F-1 students with categories C03A, C03B, C03C)

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Stateside Visa Renewal Pilot Begins 1/29/24

Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the U.S. for Certain Qualified Noncitizens

The Department of State (DOS) has announced a pilot program to resume domestic visa renewal for qualified H–1B nonimmigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements.

Applications will be accepted from January 29 to April 1, 2024. Those who meet the requirements may choose to participate during the application window by applying online. Written comments and related materials must be received on or before midnight April 15, 2024.

Participation in this pilot will be limited to applicants who(se):

1. Are seeking to renew an H–1B visa; during the pilot phase, the Department will not process any other visa classifications;

2. Prior H–1B visa that is being renewed was issued by Mission Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023; or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021;

3. Are not subject to a nonimmigrant visa issuance fee (Note: this is commonly referred to as a “reciprocity fee”);

4. Are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement;

5. Have submitted ten fingerprints to the Department in connection with a previous visa application;

6. Prior visa does not include a “clearance received” annotation;

7. Do not have a visa ineligibility that would require a waiver prior to visa issuance;

8. Have an approved and unexpired H–1B petition;

9. Were most recently admitted to the United States in H–1B status;

10. Are currently maintaining H–1B status in the United States;

11. Period of authorized admission in H–1B status has not expired; and

12. Intend to reenter the United States in H–1B status after a temporary period abroad.

For more information on requirements for participation and instructions for application:

MLG in 2024 Chambers Regional Spotlight

MLG is incredibly proud to announce our firm was selected for the Chambers Regional Spotlight – a massive achievement in the field of law. Thank you Chambers for this wonderful recognition!

Chambers Spotlight

“Small firms in NYC continue to attract and process large amounts of visa and immigration petitions on behalf of businesses and individuals. These Spotlight firms frequently advise on aspects of inbound and outbound immigration, including workforce mobility, HSMP, work permits and visas.”

“Milstein Law Group brings a personalized approach to every immigration case—whether Extraordinary Ability, Business, or Family. That sensitivity, combined with intense rigor, determination, and innovative thinking around immigration issues, has made them the go-to firm for clients in need of top-shelf representation, from world-class artists and athletes to C-Suite professionals, to international families in need.” — Chambers

Visa-Free Travel to U.S. for Eligible Israeli Citizens and Nationals

October 19, 2023 — DHS Announces Start of Applications for Visa-Free Travel to U.S. for Eligible Israeli Citizens and Nationals Beginning Today

Source: DHS.gov

Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is announcing the start of visa-free travel for short term visits to the United States for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals following Israel’s admission into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Starting today, Thursday, October 19, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can start applying for authorization to travel to the United States through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

On September 26, 2023, DHS, in consultation with the Department of State, designated Israel into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows eligible travelers to apply online for authorization to travel to the United States through ESTA. These authorizations allow successful applicants to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa. Israeli citizens and nationals with valid B-1/B-2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the United States. 

Participation in the VWP requires that any citizen seeking to enter the United States visa free be from a country that extends to U.S. citizens and nationals the privileges we would extend to their citizens and nationals.  Israel has committed in writing to the United States that all U.S. citizens traveling with a U.S. passport may seek to enter Israel without regard to national origin, religion, or ethnicity.  The United States continuously monitors implementation of program requirements by all Visa Waiver Program countries, including Israel, to ensure that they remain in good standing with all program requirements.

Eligible Israeli citizens and nationals must have a biometrically enabled passport book. Travelers who possess non-biometric, temporary, or emergency travel documents, or travel documents from a non-Visa Waiver Program designated country, are not eligible for travel under the Visa Waiver Program and may instead apply for a U.S. visa. ESTA applications may take up to 72 hours for processing. The ESTA application will be available in English only at this time and will be available in other languages no later than November 1, 2023. 

ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, travelers are notified of their eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. DHS uses the application data to vet travelers before granting authorization to travel to the United States. As part of this vetting process, information that identifies suspected or known violators of the law and other persons of concern will be provided to the appropriate law enforcement, national security, and/or counterterrorism agency. 

Individuals traveling under the Visa Waiver Program for an intended stay beyond 90 days may be determined to be inadmissible to the United States. Individuals determined to be inadmissible will be refused admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. In addition, individuals admitted under the Visa Waiver Program who overstay their authorized period of stay will be removable under the Visa Waiver Program and ineligible for future Visa Waiver Program travel. 

Traveling on a visa may still be the best option for some travelers such as those who would like to stay in the United States longer than 90 days or those who think they may wish to extend their stay or change their status once in the United States.   

ESTA applications may be found at esta.cbp.dhs.gov or download the “ESTA Mobile” app through iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. 

Questions?

Visa Renewal Pilot Program To Begin Early 2024

DOS is expected to begin this new pilot program for the renewal of H-1B nonimmigrant visas in early 2024.

From Aila.org — October 18, 2024

“On October 17, 2023, DOS sent for review a Federal Register notice entitled Pilot Program to Resume Renewal of H-1B Nonimmigrant Visas in the United States for Certain Qualified Noncitizens to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This document, once published, will lay out the eligibility criteria for participation in the Stateside Visa Renewal pilot program.

While full details of the scope of the pilot program will be shared in the Federal Register notice when published, AILA understands that it will:

– Begin in early 2024
– Be limited to H-1B principals only
– Be limited to nationals of countries that are not subject to reciprocity fees
– India will be one of the eligible countries to participate in the pilot program
– Have eligibility requirements like those for participation in the interview waiver program
– Be available for 20,000 applicants
– Be voluntary participation

The initial launch of the stateside renewal program will be a limited pilot to test out the operationality of the stateside renewal program. DOS has expressed its strong intent to expand this program after the initial launch has allowed them to work out any operational issues.”

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Visual Artists’ Immigration Clinic

Join MLG’s Rakhel Milstein and the Center for Art Law on October 11th for an informative session designed to guide emerging and established international visual artists through the process of obtaining a visa to the United States.

Israelis Are Eligible For the Visa Waiver Program

UPDATE:

10/19/2023 — DHS Announces Start of Applications for Visa-Free Travel to U.S. for Eligible Israeli Citizens and Nationals Beginning Today

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is announcing the start of visa-free travel for short term visits to the United States for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals following Israel’s admission into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. Starting today, Thursday, October 19, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals can start applying for authorization to travel to the United States through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

______________________________________________________________________________________________

September 27, 2023

Big news!

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas, in consultation with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, announced the designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). 

By November 30, 2023, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be updated to allow citizens and nationals of Israel to apply to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without first obtaining a U.S. visa, a step which further strengthens the security, economic and people-to-people ties between the United States and Israel. Following updates in Israel’s travel policies, all U.S. citizens may request entry to Israel for up to 90 days for business, tourism, or transit without obtaining a visa.

“The designation of Israel into the Visa Waiver Program is an important recognition of our shared security interests and the close cooperation between our two countries,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “This designation, which represents over a decade of work and coordination between the United States and Israel, will enhance our two nations’ collaboration on counterterrorism, law enforcement, and our other common priorities. Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, and the stringent requirements it entails, will make both of our nations more secure.”

USCIS Increases Employment Authorization Document Validity Period for Certain Categories

September 28, 2023

Important notice: EADs for pending adjustment applicants will now be issued for 5 years!

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is increasing the maximum available validity period to 5 years for initial and renewal Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for certain noncitizens who are employment authorized incident to status or circumstance, including those admitted as refugees, paroled as refugees, and granted asylum, as well as recipients of withholding of removal.  

USCIS is also increasing the maximum available validity period to 5 years for initial and renewal EADs for certain noncitizens who must apply for employment authorization, including applicants for asylum or withholding of removal, adjustment of status under INA 245, and suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal. 

The updated guidance also explains the categories of noncitizens who are automatically authorized to work (also known as being employment authorized incident to status or circumstance) and provides more information on who can present a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, to an employer as an acceptable document showing employment authorization under List C of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Finally, this guidance clarifies that certain Afghan and Ukrainian parolees are employment authorized incident to parole. 

 What You Need to Know 

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