Modifications to Immigration Law in the United States

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently disclosed a set of revisions to immigration law and fees, potentially affecting certain applicants.

Changes to USCIS Immigration and Naturalization Fees:

On January 30, 2024, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a final rule to amend specific immigration and naturalization benefit request fees for the first time since 2016.

These updated fees, as per the final rule, will come into effect on April 1, 2024.

This final rule stems from a comprehensive fee evaluation mandated by law. The evaluation found that the current fee structure inadequately covers the complete cost of agency operations, including necessary expansions of humanitarian programs, federally mandated salary increases, additional staffing needs, and other essential investments.

Key provisions of the final rule include:

Reducing the agency’s required annual cost recovery by $727 million, partly through improved efficiency measures; Expanding fee exemptions for Special Immigrant Juveniles, victims of human trafficking, crime, and domestic violence; US military service members and Afghan allies; and families pursuing international adoption; Offering special fee discounts for non-profit organizations and small business employers; Providing half-price Employment Authorization Document applications for adjustment of status applicants and reduced fees for adjustment of status applicants under 14 years old in certain situations; Extending eligibility for a 50% fee reduction for naturalization applications to individuals with household incomes between 150% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; and Implementing a standard $50 discount for online filers. All fees in the final rule either match or are lower than those proposed. For most individual filers, the final rule caps the increase in newly established fees at 26%, equivalent to the rise in the Consumer Price Index since the issuance of the last fee rule in 2016.

During a grace period from April 1, 2024, to June 3, 2024, USCIS will accept both previous and new editions of certain forms.

However, new forms without grace periods include:

Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker; Form I-129 CW, Petition for a CNMI-Only Non-immigrant Transitional Worker; Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers; Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition (and supplements 1, 2, and 3); and Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative. USCIS will use the postmark date for filing to determine the correct form version and fees, while the receipt date will be used for regulatory or statutory filing deadlines.

Enhanced Integrity Measures, FY 2025 H-1B Cap Registration Period, and Online Filing of H-1B Petitions:

On January 30, 2024, USCIS introduced a final rule to bolster the integrity of and diminish potential fraud in the H-1B registration process. This includes reducing the potential for manipulating the registration system to ensure each beneficiary has an equal chance of selection, regardless of registration volume submitted on their behalf.

USCIS also announced the initial registration period dates for the fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap and the launch of an online filing option for Forms I-129 and I-907 for H-1B petitioners.

H-1B Registration Final Rule Highlights:

The new beneficiary-centric process selects registrations by unique beneficiary rather than by registration. Beginning with the FY 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport or travel document information for each beneficiary. Registrations will be limited to one passport or travel document per beneficiary. Clarifications regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the H-1B cap have been provided, allowing filings with start dates after October 1 of the relevant fiscal year. The final rule codifies USCIS’ authority to deny or revoke H-1B petitions based on false attestation or invalid registration. USCIS will begin accepting online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated forms on April 1, 2024, for selected registrants. FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period:

The initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will run from noon Eastern Time (ET) on March 6, 2024, to noon ET on March 22, 2024. Prospective petitioners must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically during this period.

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

USCIS will introduce new organizational accounts in the USCIS online account on February 28, 2024. This will enable multiple individuals within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations and petitions. Online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions will commence on February 28, 2024. Online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated forms will begin on April 1, 2024, for selected registrants. Petitioners still have the option to file paper forms but cannot link them to their online accounts during the initial launch of organizational accounts.

New Fee Payment Process for In-Person Filings:

USCIS has initiated a new process for most applicants, petitioners, and requestors to pay for certain benefit request forms by mail or remotely rather than in person at a field office. Applicants may mail a check or Form G-1450 with their benefit request to the field office under the new process. However, they must ensure they follow the filing instructions and submit their requests to the correct office. Attorneys and accredited representatives can process payments for EOIR-29 through a link in the email they receive or via text from the USCIS Contact Center. Exceptions include emergency advance parole (EAP) requests, which still require in-person submission and payment at a field office.

Seeking Assistance with US Immigration:

For inquiries regarding US immigration, including selecting the appropriate visa category, individuals can contact the SSW global immigration team for comprehensive support with the visa application process and post-arrival assistance.

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