Articles Posted in Nonimmigrant Visas

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We are pleased to announce that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will soon publish a new temporary final rule in the federal register aimed at streamlining the processing of renewal applications for Employment Authorization Documents (also known as EADs) and increasing the automatic extension period of EADs.


What does this new rule propose?


The new temporary final rule (TFR) proposes an increase of the automatic extension period of certain employment authorization documents (EADs) from up to 180 days to up to 540 days from the expiration date printed on EADs.


Who will benefit?


This automatic extension will benefit employment-authorized noncitizens to prevent workforce interruption for those that have pending employment authorization renewal applications with USCIS, which were timely and properly filed on or after October 27, 2023.

Additionally, to be eligible for the automatic extension, the EAD renewal application must still be pending with USCIS on the date of the rule’s publication in the Federal Register on April 8, 2024.

It will also benefit any eligible applicant who files a renewal EAD application during the 540-day period beginning on or after April 8, 2024 (the date of the rule’s publication in the Federal Register).

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In this blog post, we bring you an important announcement regarding the H-1B fiscal year (FY) 2025 cap season.

Today, April 1st the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it received sufficient electronic registrations during the initial registration period to meet the annual numerical limitations for the fiscal year (FY 2025), including for the advanced degree exemption (also known as the master’s cap).

Due to this, the agency has completed the H-1B visa lottery and selected unique beneficiaries at random from the properly submitted registrations to reach the H-1B cap.

As of today, April 1st  USCIS has notified all prospective petitioners of their selection via their myUSCIS organizational accounts. Please be aware that only selected beneficiaries are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS.

Congratulations to all those who were selected!


How will I know if I was selected in the lottery?


Petitioners with selected registrations will have their myUSCIS online organizational accounts updated to include a selection notice, which includes details of when and where to file. If you submitted your electronic registration with the assistance of an attorney, you should contact your legal representative to determine whether you were selected in the randomized lottery and your next steps.

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SSN Updates for New N-400 Applicants


If you have been thinking of applying for U.S. Citizenship, you may be pleased to learn that starting April 1st applicants will have the option of requesting an original or replacement Social Security number (SSN) or card and have the chance to update their immigration status with the Social Security Administration (SSA), without having to visit an SSA office in person.

This is all part of the new edition of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization (edition date 04/01/24) which will allow these requests to be made when submitting the application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Previously, green card holders were required to visit an SSA office in person to notify them of their new U.S. Citizenship status and apply for a replacement SSN card reflecting their new immigration status.

Unfortunately, this new update only applies to applicants filing the new edition of the N-400 application (04/01/24) on or after April 1st.  Those who applied using the previous edition of the form (09/17/19) cannot take advantage of this option.


When will the new edition of the N-400 be available for use?


The new edition of the Form N-400 (04/01/24) will be available for online filing on April 1.

To file Form N-400 online, applicants must first create a USCIS online account, a convenient and secure method to submit forms, pay fees, and track the status of any pending USCIS immigration request throughout the adjudication process.


H-1B FY 2025 Cap Season Updates: What to Expect


You may be aware that the electronic registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap season closed at noon Eastern on March 25, 2024.

Within the next few days, USCIS will conduct a lottery to randomly select within the pool of properly submitted registrations to reach the FY 2025 H-1B annual numerical allocations, including the advanced degree exemption (master’s cap). USCIS will notify the public once the lottery has been completed.

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We are reporting some breaking news for the H-1B FY 2025 cap season. This afternoon, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will be extending the H-1B electronic registration period for the FY 2025 cap until noon eastern time, Monday, March 25, 2024.


Why the Change?


The H-1B FY 2025 electronic registration process which began on March 6th has been plagued by technical issues and system outages which has caused problems for registrants attempting to submit their registrations. Due to these issues, USCIS has decided to extend the electronic registration period to provide relief to those experiencing difficulties.

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As a reminder to our readers, today Monday, February 26, 2024, a new premium processing fee will go into effect for Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing, for those filing premium processing service for the following applications:

  • Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
  • Certain applicants filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and
  • I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS.

Highlights


In December of last year, USCIS published a final rule in the Federal Register announcing the filing fee increase for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to account for inflation.

Effective February 26, 2024, the final rule increases the premium processing fees as follows:

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In this blog post, we share with you some new updates for the H-1B cap season for fiscal year 2025 and beyond.


 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period FY 2025


USCIS has announced that the initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap season will open at noon Eastern time on March 6, 2024, and run through noon Eastern time on March 22, 2024.

During the registration period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.

For more information on the H-1B Cap Season, visit H-1B Cap Season webpage.


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


On February 28, 2024, USCIS will launch new organizational accounts in the USCIS online account webpage 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, online.

Also on February 28, USCIS will launch online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions.


Online Filing of H-1B Cap Petitions and I-907 Starting April 1, 2024


On April 1, 2024, 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.

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Exciting news! On January 24, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new update to its Policy Manual, which clarifies that officers have the discretionary power to excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request, if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.

In general, USCIS does not approve an extension of stay or change of status for a person who failed to maintain their status or where such status expired before the filing date of the application or petition. If certain conditions are met, however, USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file before the period of authorized stay expired.

The new update appears in Chapter 4. Section A. Extension of Stay or Change of Status, which includes a new subsection entitled “Requirements to Timely File a Request to Extend Stay or Change Status.”

It clarifies that USCIS may excuse a failure to file before the period of authorized status expires, where the requestor demonstrates in their request that:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the person’s control;
  • The length of the delay was commensurate with the circumstances;
  • The person has not otherwise violated their nonimmigrant status;
  • The person remains a bona fide nonimmigrant; and
  • The person is not the subject of removal proceedings and, in the case of extensions of stay, is also not the subject of deportation proceedings.

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Newly released data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has shown that thanks to policy guidance released in January 2022, more foreign nationals working in the STEM fields are receiving O-1A visas than ever before.

In just the first year of issuing its revised guidance for example, issuance of O-1A visas soared by 30% to 4,570 and remained steady throughout fiscal year 2023.

USCIS’ clarifying policy guidance also benefitted EB-2 applicants with advanced STEM degrees seeking the National Interest Waiver petition. The number of such visas approved in 2022 increased by 55% over 2021, to 70,240 visas and remained at a high level throughout 2022.

Recent policy clarifications have helped those with advanced degrees in the STEM fields understand whether they meet the qualifying criteria of the O-1A and EB-2 National Interest Waiver petition, because USCIS has been much more transparent in listing examples of the types of evidence that will satisfy the evidentiary criteria, focusing on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of evidence typically submitted in these fields.

One of the more interesting updates USCIS provided in its policy guidance, emphasizes that with respect to O-1A petitions, if a particular criterion does not readily apply to the applicant’s field, comparable evidence may be submitted to establish sustained acclaim or recognition, including examples of comparable evidence for those working in the STEM fields, 2 USCIS-PM M.4, Appendices Tab.

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The past year saw big victories for worldwide visa operations.

The Department of State recently provided statistics summarizing its visa processing capacity in the year 2023. The recent data shows tremendous advancement in visa processing capacity at Consular posts globally and provides a strong outlook for visa processing in the year 2024.

In the year 2023, the Department of State issued more nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consular posts and Embassies worldwide than at any other time since 2015.

This included issuing a record of 10.4 million nonimmigrant visas globally, with more than 1 million nonimmigrant visas issued in a single month during March of 2023.

Some of the State Department’s accomplishments include:

  • The reunification of families, with the issuance of 563,000 immigrant visas (IVs) in FY 2023, with 30 of its missions issuing their largest number of immigrant visas ever.  Consular sections worldwide have reduced the overall immigrant visa interview scheduling backlog by nearly half, from nearly 532,000 in July 2021, to just over 275,500.
  • Prioritizing student and academic exchange visitor visa interviews to facilitate study at U.S. universities and colleges. Consular sections issued 830,000 student and exchange visitor visas in FY 2023, more than in any year since FY 2016.  More than 600,000 of those were for students pursuing an education in the United States, many of them from countries sending record numbers of students. Of these numbers, nearly 40,000 visas were issued to African students which set an all-time record.
  • Record numbers of visas were issued for seasonal agricultural and non-agricultural workers to facilitate the legal and orderly flow of labor. A record-breaking 442,000 visas were issued to H-2A and H-2B temporary workers in 2023, with nearly 90 percent of visas issued to workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. 
  • A record number of 365,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crewmembers (C1/D) which are essential to maintaining international transportation and supply chains that support the U.S. and global economies.

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