Articles Posted in Work Visas

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On May 13, 2024, the State Department announced record breaking milestones including the issuance of a whopping 5.2 million nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide in the first half of fiscal year 2024 – more than any previous year over the same period.

In the past six months alone, 30 percent of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide set all-time records for nonimmigrant visas issued.

In particular, travel and tourism has been a focal point for the State Department considering that international visitors contribute as much as $239 billion annually to the U.S. economy and support approximately 9.5 million jobs.

Some of the key highlights from the State Department’s announcement are as follows:

In the first half of fiscal year 2024:

  • Almost 4.1 million B visitor visas and border crossing cards were issued for tourists and temporary business travelers worldwide, with nearly two-thirds from Mexico, India, Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, Colombia, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

By the middle of fiscal year 2024, the State Department issued:

  • Approximately 134,000 visas for exchange visitor program participants and 115,000 visas for students. International students contributed almost $38 billion to the U.S. economy in the year 2022 and made up more than 335,000 jobs
  • A record breaking 205,000 visas were issued for temporary or seasonal workers in agriculture and other sectors
  • Almost 160,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued to airline and shipping crew members to support global transportation and supply chains—the second-highest half-year issuance record in this category in history
  • Almost 25,000 employment-based immigrant visas—75 percent more than same period in fiscal year 2019

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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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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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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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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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