USCIS

H-1B Visas: Employers Be Aware of Potential Changes

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services envelope, white folder for naturalization certificate on table with American flag

Photo credit: iStock.com/ablokhin

By David S. Rugendorf

Changes are in the works related to the processing of H-1B visa petitions, and employers intending to file such petitions should be aware. On Monday, December 3, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposal to change the annual cap-subject H-1B visa petition filing system in two significant ways: (1) the establishment of an online H-1B registration system; and (2) a major change in the procedures related to the annual H-1B visa cap lottery.

By law, the number of new H-1B visa petitions for professional worker beneficiaries is capped at 65,000 annually, with an additional 20,000 set aside for individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. Advanced degrees are considered to be master’s degrees or higher. Certain employers, such as hospitals, non-profit research institutions and universities are exempt from this annual cap. As a result of this limitation on H-1B filings, the USCIS receives well in excess of the allowable number of petitions at the beginning of each year’s filing season, April 1. Accordingly, a random lottery has taken place in early April of each year. Employers are notified over the next few months if their petitions are among the lucky 85,000 selected. The numbers are daunting – approximately 198,000 petitions where received in fiscal year 2017, and approximately 236,000 in fiscal year 2016. (more…)

USCIS Extends (and Expands) Premium Processing Ban

World map created with passport stamps, travel concept

Photo credit: iStock.com/Delpixart

By David S. Rugendorf

The USCIS announced today that it is extending its ban on premium processing on certain H-1B petitions. Premium Processing allows an employer to seek an adjudication of a visa petition within 15 days upon payment of an additional filing fee, currently $1,225 (increasing to $1,410 on October 1, 2018). Employers should review their current and upcoming H-1B visa needs to determine how the ban will impact their matters, so they can plan accordingly.

To be specific, USCIS estimated earlier this year it would reinstate Premium Processing for H-1B cap cases in September 2018 (in roughly two weeks from now). The suspension of Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions is now expected to be extended through at least February 19, 2019. USCIS expects this suspension will help reduce the processing time for H-1Bs by allowing it to process long-pending petitions. In addition, USCIS states that the temporary suspension will allow them to be more responsive to petitions with time-sensitive start dates, as well as to prioritize adjudication of H-1B extension of status cases that are nearing their 240-day work authorization limit dates. (more…)

U.S. Immigration to Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

By Stephen Blaker and Howard Shapiro

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that as of Monday, April 3, 2017, it will not accept Premium Processing requests for H-1B visa petitions for a temporary period expected to last up to six (6) months. This applies to all H-1B visa petitions, including extensions, amendments, cap-exempt and new employment petitions, such as those to be submitted in the FY18 Bachelor’s and Master’s Caps. USCIS has indicated that the suspension is required to eliminate the backlog on long-pending H-1B visa petitions. Starting on April 3, 2017, USCIS will reject any H-1B visa petition that is filed with a Form I-907 and one (1) combined check for the I-129 filing fees and the I-907 filing fee. (more…)

New USCIS Forms And USCIS Filing Fee Adjustment

By Benjamin Lau and Frida Glucoft

On December 23, 2016, the USCIS posted a large number of new form versions with effective dates of December 23, 2016, to its website and indicated that no other versions of the forms would be accepted. Numerous stakeholders, companies, immigration attorneys, professional organizations and advocacy groups contacted the USCIS to demand a grace period where prior form versions could be submitted since no notice of the updates were given. On December 29, 2016, the USCIS announced that it would accept prior versions of the recently updated forms until February 21, 2017. The only exception to this grace period is the Form N-400, the application for naturalization, which the USCIS announced on December 13, 2016.

As part of the forms update, the USCIS issued a new Form I-129S. The new I-129S requires  employers who file an L-1 extension of stay or a change of status for an employee based on an approved blanket L petition to use both the individual L1 application Form I-129 and to also submit the I-129S blanket. Previously, all L-1 petition extensions or change of status only required the one individual form, I-129. The filing fees for both forms, when both forms are required, remain unclear at this time.

In addition to the new forms, the USCIS fee changes that were announced in October 2016 went into effect on December 23, 2016. The fee changes saw an increase in the filing fees for nearly all immigrant and nonimmigrant categories. Some of the new filing fees are: I-129: $460, I-539: $370, I-140: $700, I-130: $535, and I-485: $1,225.