In recent announcements from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), significant changes have been unveiled, marking a profound transformation in the realm of H-1B visas.
This blog serves as your guide through these intricate adjustments, from the restructuring of fee schedules to the pioneering initiation of the H-1B visa renewal pilot program.
H-1B Visa Changes: Latest Updates
New Fee Structure and Application Window
USCIS has unveiled a new fee structure for H-1B visas, impacting applicants seeking this non-immigrant visa category. Understanding these changes is crucial for those planning an H-1B visa journey. The application window is set to open on March 6, 2024, creating a clear timeframe for applicants to navigate the altered fee structure.
- New fee structure effective from April 1, 2024.
- Pre-registration from March 6 to March 22, 2024.
Beneficiary-centric Selection Process: How Will It Impact You?
In a significant overhaul, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has introduced a beneficiary-centric selection process for H-1B visas, aiming to address manipulation issues and foster fairness in the system. This transformative initiative, set to take effect from Fiscal Year 2025, brings forth several key changes:
1. Single Entry into Lottery:
- To combat manipulation problems, the new process ensures that, no matter how many petitioners submit registrations for the same beneficiary for legitimate job openings, the beneficiary will be entered into the lottery only once.
- When a beneficiary is selected, all petitioners who submitted registrations for that individual will be notified. This shift empowers beneficiaries, allowing them more negotiating leverage with employers regarding job acceptance.
2. Travel Document Requirements:
- Registrants, starting from FY 2025, must provide valid passport or other valid travel document information, enhancing transparency and inclusivity.
3. Start Date Flexibility:
- DHS clarifies that petitions may be filed with start dates after October 1 of the relevant year, provided the case is not filed more than six months before the proposed start date. However, the extension of cap-gap protection to qualified students remains unaddressed.
4. Enhancing Integrity:
- DHS codifies its authority to deny or revoke an approved petition under various circumstances, ensuring the integrity of the process.
- Changes in a beneficiary’s identifying information, the discovery of an invalid registration fee, the identification of petitions not based on valid registrations, and the detection of inaccurate or fraudulent statements trigger the ability to deny or revoke.
5. Attestation under Penalty of Perjury:
- Petitioners must sign an attestation under the penalty of perjury during registration, confirming the completeness, truth, and correctness of the information submitted.
- The attestation also ensures the legitimacy of the job offer and prohibits collaboration with other entities to unfairly increase the chances of selection.
H-1B Renewal Pilot Program
The U.S. State Department has launched a pioneering initiative, the H-1B Renewal Pilot Program, to facilitate the renewal process for qualified H-1B nonimmigrant visa applicants, primarily targeting Indian and Canadian workers in the United States. This program, aimed at improving visa operations and reducing workloads at consular offices abroad, introduces significant changes to the renewal process:
Overview of the Pilot Program:
- The pilot program will accept applications from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or until all 20,000 application slots are filled, whichever comes first.
- Participation in the program is voluntary, and individuals not meeting the requirements or opting out can continue applying for visa renewal at U.S. embassies or consulates overseas.
- Eligible applicants should select the country where their most recent H-1B visa was issued, limited to visas issued in India and Canada for this initial pilot phase.
- Applicants must follow the online navigator tool to assess their qualifications and proceed accordingly.
- Upon meeting the requirements, applicants complete and submit an Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (form DS-160) through the online portal.
- A non-refundable, non-transferrable Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) application processing fee of $205.00 must be paid via the portal.
- Following the instructions provided, applicants should mail their passport and necessary documents for processing.
Key Program Details:
- The pilot program will offer a maximum of 20,000 application slots, with approximately 2,000 slots per week allocated for each country.
- Application slots will be released on specified entry period dates, starting from January 29, 2024, and closing on April 1, 2024.
- Applications will be processed on a first-received, first-processed basis until the weekly limit is reached.
Considerations and Limitations
The pilot program currently includes specific criteria outlined in December, with dependent visa holders, such as spouses and children on H-4 visas, excluded from the current scope. The State Department plans to evaluate the pilot program’s success and explore the possibility of expanding domestic renewal further.
USCIS Organizational Account Launch and Online Filing Details
USCIS introduces organizational accounts for enhanced collaboration on H-1B registrations, petitions, and Form I-907. Multiple individuals within an organization and their legal representatives can collaborate through these accounts.
The table below provides a clear overview of the key dates and events:
|Mid February, 2024
|USCIS implements filing fee increase for Form I-907 to account for inflation.
|Mid February, 2024
|Online filing for Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions commences.
|April 1, 2024
|Petitioners with selected registrations can begin online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated forms.
|Petitioners have the option of filing paper forms, but USCIS encourages the use of the online filing system for its efficiency.
Note: “Ongoing” means that this option remains available continuously throughout the mentioned period, allowing petitioners to choose between paper and online filing as per their preference.
Amidst USCIS fee changes and the launch of the renewal pilot program, staying informed is crucial for H-1B visa applicants. Kodem Law comprehends these intricacies and is your trusted partner in navigating the evolving H-1B landscape. Plan strategically, stay updated, and collaborate with us to embrace the future of H-1B visas seamlessly.
For personalized guidance and steadfast support, connect with Kodem Law – Your Trusted Partner in H-1B Visa Success.