Patricia Gannon, Marcela Bermudez, and Ruijie “Jessica” Zhang
New Consular Fees Take Effect May 30
Fees for nonimmigrant visas and border crossing cards will increase effectively on May 30, 2023. Please see the Department of State’s (DOS) fee schedule recently issued in the
Federal Register. Visa application fees for the most common employment-based nonimmigrant visas, such as H, L, O, and P, will increase to $205 (from $190). The fees for B-1/B-2 and F-1 visas, and for border crossing cards for those ages 15 and older, will increase to $185 (from $160), and E visa application fees will increase to $315 (from $205).
USCIS Completes FY 2024 H-1B Cap Selection
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has
announced that the annual limit for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 H-1B Cap has been met and the lottery selection process has been completed. Sponsoring-employers and their attorneys have been notified of the selection results and are now able to view the status of their submissions in their registration accounts.
During the initial H-1B lottery registration period, employers submitted more than enough registrations to meet the quota of 65,000 standard H-1B cap numbers and the cap exemption of 20,000 for holders of U.S. advanced degrees. The precise number of cap registrations submitted has not yet been disclosed by USCIS.
For each registered beneficiary, the USCIS online system will reflect one of the following statuses:
Selected: The employer may file a FY 2024 H-1B cap petition for the beneficiary beginning April 1, 2023, through June 30, 2023.
Submitted: The beneficiary was not chosen in the initial lottery selection, but the beneficiary will remain in consideration for selection until the end of the FY, in the event that USCIS does not receive enough H-1B cap petitions during the filing period to meet the annual quota. The employer may not file a FY 2024 H-1B cap petition for the beneficiary unless USCIS notifies the employer they were selected. In prior years, USCIS has determined it necessary to conduct more than one lottery selection in a cap season, which provided employers with another opportunity to file H-1B petitions after the initial lottery was run. Last year, however, USCIS conducted only one round of lottery selections.
Denied: A duplicate registration was submitted by the employer for the same beneficiary. If a registration was denied as a duplicate, all of the employer’s registrations for that specific beneficiary are invalid.
Invalidated: Failed Payment: A registration was submitted, but the payment method was declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid.
If a registration was not selected in this lottery, it will be held in the system and remain in consideration for selection in the event that, by June 30, USCIS does not receive a sufficient number of H-1B cap petitions to meet the 85,000 H-1B annual quota. Whether the agency will conduct more than one lottery selection will depend on how many registrations are selected by USCIS in the initial round, as well as how many H-1B petitions are submitted to USCIS by employers with selected registrations.
End of COVID-19 Grace Period to Respond to RFEs, NOIDs, etc.
On March 23, 2023, USCIS announced that the COVID-19 60-day extension to respond to agency notices and decisions, including requests for evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), among others, will end. The accommodation, which was initially announced in March 2020 as a means of minimizing negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been extended several times.
Notices and agency decisions – including requests for evidence and NOIDs, among others – that were received last week, on March 23, are still covered by the accommodation. For notices and decisions dated on or after March 24, 2023, employers and foreign nationals will be required to respond by the deadline identified in the notice or decision correspondence.
Global Entry Opens to Croatia
Croatian citizens are now eligible to apply for the Global Entry Trusted Traveler Program (TTP), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has
announced. Successful applicants will benefit from expedited immigration and customs clearance when they enter the United States through a participating airport. Croatia joins a growing list of 14 Global Entry partners with full arrangements, including Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
Croatian citizens interested in Global Entry membership must set up an account in CBP’s
Trusted Traveler Programs website, complete a TTP online application, and pay a $100 non-refundable application fee. Applicants are subject to background checks and an in-person interview with a CBP officer. Once the background check is complete, CBP will notify applicants whether they have been accepted into the program. Global Entry membership is valid for five years, though a violation of program rules could result in revocation of membership privileges.
Once a citizen of Croatia is enrolled in Global Entry, they may also be eligible to be selected for expedited security screening at U.S. airports through the TSA Pre-Check program.
TPS Extended for Citizens of Somalia
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended and redesignated Somalia for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, from March 18, 2023 through September 17, 2024, according to a
Federal Register notice. Current Somali TPS beneficiaries will have 60 days, from March 13, 2023, through May 12, 2023, to request an 18-month extension of status and work authorization. New applicants will have from March 13, 2023, through September 17, 2024, to file for TPS status and for related employment authorization documents (EADs) and travel permission.
DHS has determined that conditions in Somalia warrant continued and renewed TPS. The ongoing armed conflict, along with climate, health, food safety, and humanitarian challenges have worsened the already severe humanitarian crisis that prompted Somalia’s initial TPS designation. The agency has determined that current conditions prevent Somali nationals from returning to Somalia safely.
CDC Lifts COVID Test Requirement for Travel from China
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
is lifting the COVID-19 testing requirement for air travelers originating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau. As of March 10, 2023, at 3 p.m. ET, travelers from these areas are not required to provide a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of COVID-19 recovery in order to board a flight to the United States.
In rescinding the testing requirement, the CDC states that current available data indicates the COVID-19 surge recently experienced by the PRC has returned to a baseline level and that no variants of concern have been identified as emerging from the PRC at this time.
USCIS Issues Policy Alert on Ability to Pay Proffered Wage
USCIS issued a policy alert on March 15, 2023, on employers’ ability to pay the proffered wage to prospective beneficiaries of certain I-140 immigrant petitions. USCIS is updating its guidance to discuss in more detail various types of evidence and explain how it reviews all evidence relevant to the employer’s financial strength and the significance of its business activities. Among other things, the new guidance explains that an employer must submit one of three forms of initial required evidence but may also include other types of relevant evidence.
USCIS states that employers must submit annual reports, federal tax returns, or audited financial statements for each available year from the case’s priority date. If the employer has 100 or more workers, it may instead include a financial officer statement attesting to the petitioner’s ability to pay the proffered wage. An employer may also submit additional evidence, the agency said, such as profit and loss statements, bank account records, or personnel records. USCIS noted that many employers satisfy the ability to pay requirement by also submitting payroll records demonstrating that, during the relevant time period, they have been paying the employee at least the proffered wage indicated on the Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers (Form I-140).
LPRs May Receive Temporary Evidence of Status by Mail
USCIS announced on March 16, 2023, that certain lawful permanent residents (LPRs) may receive temporary
evidence of their status by mail rather than physically visiting a field office, to receive an Alien Documentation, Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) stamp (also known as an I-551 stamp).
USCIS said LPRs are entitled to evidence of status and may require temporary evidence of their status in the form of an ADIT stamp if:
They do not have their green card; or
Their Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (green card), Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, or Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is still pending adjudication and their green card and extension notice have expired.
USCIS said this alternate Form I-94 with an ADIT stamp is an acceptable List A receipt for Form I-9 and E-Verify purposes. Some lawful permanent residents will still need to appear in person at a USCIS field office to receive temporary evidence of their status, including those who have urgent needs, do not have a useable photo in USCIS systems, or whose address or identity cannot be confirmed.
Biometrics Requirement Removed for Regional Center Investor Petitioners
As of March 15, 2023, USCIS has removed the
biometrics submission requirement and related $85 fee for petitioners filing Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor. USCIS said it may still request the submission of biometrics from a Form I-526E petitioner as necessary. The agency said it will refund biometrics fees paid by about 980 petitioners since the form’s release in 2022. Petitioners do not need to contact USCIS to request a refund.
USCIS Updates Policy on Time Frames for Paper-Based Filings and Responses Ending on Saturdays, Sundays, or Federal Holidays
USCIS has updated its policy manual to state that if the last day to file a paper-based benefit request or respond to a USCIS action falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, the filing or response will be considered timely if it is received by the end of the next business day. This policy applies to all benefit requests or responses received on paper on or after March 29, 2023, and does not affect electronic filings. The update is intended to increase flexibility related to filing deadlines and will not be applied retroactively.