H-1B Visa Process To Begin On March 6 Amid Overhaul Of Lottery System

The initial registration for the H-1B visa application for fiscal year 2025 will open from March 6 and run through March 22, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said on Tuesday.

The announcement came as part of a final rule to strengthen the integrity of and reduce the potential for fraud in the registration process of the non-immigrant visa that allows US employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations.

Some of the steps taken by the federal agency include reducing the potential for gaming the registration system and ensuring each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf.

“The initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 6, 2024, and run through noon Eastern on March 22, 2024,” USCIS said in a news release.

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

The agency’s final rule contains provisions that will create a beneficiary-centric selection process for registrations by employers, codify start date flexibility for certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, and add more integrity measures related to the registration process.

“We’re always looking for ways to bolster integrity and curtail the potential for fraud while improving and streamlining our application processes,” said USCIS Director Ur M Jaddou.

“The improvements in these areas should make H-1B selections more equitable for petitioners and beneficiaries and will allow for the H-1B process to be fully electronic from registration, if applicable, until final decision and transmission of approved petitions to the Department of State.”

Under the beneficiary-centric process, registrations will be selected by unique beneficiary rather than by registration.

This new process is designed to reduce the potential for fraud and ensure each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf by an employer.

Starting with the fiscal year 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary.

The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the US if issued an H-1B visa.

Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document, the USCIS said. (IANS)

USCIS Announces Premium Processing Fee Hike for H-1B Visa Applications

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is set to implement an increase in premium processing fees for H-1B visa applications, effective February 26, 2024.

Under the revised premium processing fee structure, adjustments have been made for forms I-129, I-140, I-539, and I-765. These forms encompass crucial elements of the immigration process, including the immigrant petition for alien worker (I-140), application to change or extend non-immigrant status (I-539), and employment authorization (I-765).

The fee increments are notable, with certain premium processing fees experiencing an uptick from US$1,500 to US$1,685, US$1,750 to US$1,965, and US$2,500 to US$2,805. This represents a 12 percent increase in processing fees for H-1B visas, resulting in a final fee of US$2,805, according to USCIS sources.

These changes are in accordance with the USCIS Stabilization Act, which not only established the existing premium processing fees but also granted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to adjust these fees biennially.

“The Department will use the revenue generated by the premium processing fee increase to provide premium processing services, make improvements to adjudication processes, respond to adjudication demands, including reducing benefit request processing backlogs, and fund USCIS adjudication and naturalization services,” stated an official USCIS spokesperson.

In quoting the USCIS Stabilization Act, the premium processing fees have been designed to play a pivotal role in enhancing various aspects of the immigration system. This includes facilitating premium processing services, streamlining adjudication processes, addressing increased adjudication demands, and mitigating the backlog associated with processing benefit requests.

The decision to increase fees, as outlined by the USCIS, is a strategic move to bolster operational capabilities and enhance overall efficiency. The funds generated through the fee adjustments are earmarked for critical areas, including premium processing services, which are expected to benefit from the additional resources.

While some stakeholders may express concerns over the fee hike, the USCIS asserts that these adjustments are imperative for meeting the growing demands and challenges within the immigration system. The agency aims to allocate resources judiciously to ensure a more streamlined and responsive process for handling immigration-related petitions and benefit requests.

It’s essential to note that the premium processing fee increase is part of a broader strategy outlined in the USCIS Stabilization Act, which empowers the DHS to periodically review and adjust fees to align with the evolving needs of the immigration system.

The USCIS, in justifying the fee adjustments, emphasizes the positive impact they will have on reducing processing backlogs and improving the overall adjudication process. The revenue generated from the fee increase is intended to be a proactive measure in addressing the complexities associated with the influx of immigration-related requests.

The USCIS premium processing fee hike for H-1B visa applications is a carefully considered adjustment aimed at fortifying the agency’s capabilities to manage an ever-evolving immigration landscape. As the changes take effect on February 26, 2024, the increased fees will play a pivotal role in enhancing premium processing services, addressing adjudication demands, and ultimately contributing to the efficiency and responsiveness of the USCIS in fulfilling its mission.