Articles Posted in US Employers

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New fraud prevention mechanisms applied to the H-1B program in fiscal year 2025 have led to a dramatic decrease in the number of eligible registrations for H-1B cap visas, plunging to almost 40% from the past year.

These fraud prevention mechanisms were introduced with the final rule “Improving the H-1B Registration Selection Process and Program Integrity,” which changed the H-1B selection process to center around unique beneficiaries, preventing employers from gaming the system and unfairly increasing their chances of selection.

Starting this fiscal year, each beneficiary could only be registered under one passport or travel document to prevent the submission of multiple registrations.

Recent USCIS data suggests that these new changes to the H-1B system were successful at combating fraud. The agency recently released its selection statistics for the fiscal year 2025 H-1B cap season.

The data shows a significant drop in the number of eligible registrations for fiscal year 2025 totaling 470,342—representing a 38.6% reduction when compared to the 758,994 eligible registrations received in fiscal year 2024.

Of these eligible registrations (470,342), USCIS selected 114,017 beneficiaries, resulting in a total of 120,603 selected registrations for fiscal year 2025.

The number of workers who were registered did not change significantly at 442,000 when compared with 446,000 last year.

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If you’ve been a long-time follower of our blog, you’ll know that on January 29th the Department of State launched a pilot program giving certain H-1B applicants the ability to renew their visas without ever having to leave the United States.

The State Department accepted applications for this pilot program until April 1, 2024, granting domestic visa renewals for approximately 20,000 qualifying applicants, whose prior H-1B visas were issued by either 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).

What was so exciting about the pilot program’s announcement was the government’s intention to potentially expand the scope of the domestic visa renewal program to more applicants and other visa categories.

In a recent Committee Liaison meeting with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), State Department representatives said that the pilot program was a resounding success. The pilot program benefitted thousands of workers and saw strong participation from big companies, including a broad spectrum of employers from the hospitality, retail, manufacturing, technology, finance, and academic sectors.

When asked whether the State Department could release statistics about the program, representatives responded that such data is not yet available but revealed that the average turnaround time for approved applications was under two weeks.

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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 excited to report that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that they will begin fast tracking employment authorization documents (EADs) for eligible refugees after being admitted to the United States.

This new process will allow refugees admitted into the United States on or after December 10, 2023, to receive their EADs within just 30 days of entry. Eligible refugees will no longer be required to file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization by mail. Instead, USCIS will automate the process by digitally creating a Form I-765 for arriving refugees and begin adjudicating the application as soon as they are admitted into the country.

This will provide enormous benefits for refugees since they will no longer need to wait several months before they can begin working in the United States, making the process much more seamless.

Under the new system, refugees can expect to receive their EADs in the mail in just one to weeks after the approval of Form I-765.

USCIS will also electronically provide the Social Security Administration with the information required to assign a Social Security number and mail Social Security cards to refugees.

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The Department of State has published the April 2024 Visa Bulletin, bringing significant advancements in the final action dates for most employment-based categories, and modest advancement for the family-sponsored categories when compared to the previous month.


Highlights of the April 2024 Visa Bulletin


Dates for Filing Chart

For the family-sponsored preference categories, the Dates for Filing Chart remains unchanged from the previous month, with the exception of the family sponsored fourth preference category (F4) for India which will advance by 1.5 months to April 8, 2006, and Philippines which will advance by 1 year to April 22, 2005.

Additionally, for employment-based petitions, the employment based first preference category (EB1A) India will advance by 3 months to April 1, 2021, and the employment-based third (EB3) preference category for India will advance by 1.5 months to September 15, 2012. Finally, the employment based fourth preference category (EB-4) will advance by 11 months to December 1, 2020.

All other preference categories remain unchanged from the previous month.

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The March 2024 Visa Bulletin is finally here, and with it we have big advancements in the family sponsored preference categories, and minor advancements in the employment-based categories.


Highlights of the March 2024 Visa Bulletin


Dates for Filing Chart

The Dates for Filing Chart remains unchanged from the previous month, for both the family sponsored and employment-based categories, with the exception of the employment-based fourth preference category, EB-4 which will advance by 4 months to January 1, 2020.


Employment-based categories


Movement in the Final Action Dates

The Final Action Dates Chart shows some modest advancements in some of the employment-based preference categories, specifically:

  • EB-1 China will advance by two weeks to July 15, 2022
  • EB-1 India will advance by 1 month to October 1, 2020
  • EB-2 Worldwide, Mexico, and the Philippines will advance by 1 week to November 22, 2022
  • EB-3 Worldwide, Mexico, and the Philippines will advance by 1 week to September 8, 2022
  • EB-3 Other Workers, Worldwide and Mexico will advance by 1 week to September 8, 2020
  • EB-4 will advance by more than 6.5 months to December 1, 2019

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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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On January 30, 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule in the Federal Register making significant fee increases for various immigration applications and benefit requests. This fee increase will be the first major adjustment in the filing fees since 2016. The increase is meant to address the agency’s operational and financial challenges to support the timely processing of new applications.

The fee increase will take effect starting April 1, 2024. All applications postmarked after this date will be subject to the fee increases in the final rule.

TIP: To avoid paying the higher fees, USCIS must receive applications before April 1, 2024.


Highlights


  • Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), used to petition for family members, including marriage green cards, will increase by 26% to $675 for paper filing, and $625 for online filers.
  • Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiancé(e)), used by U.S. Citizens to petition for their fiancé(e) to enter the U.S., will increase by 26 percent from $535 to $675
  • Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status), used by immigrants seeking a green card for permanent residency, will increase by 18% from $1,225 to $1,440. Employment authorization, and advance parole, will now cost an additional $260 and $630, respectively. Previously these applications carried no additional cost when filing them alongside adjustment of status applications

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