70% Increase in USCIS Filing Fees for H-1B, L, and O Applications on April 1, 2024

On January 30, 2024, USCIS announced that most immigration application filing fees will  increase on April 1, 2024. The increases are significant in amount and unprecedented in their reach,  leaving a strong possibility that they will be challenged in court, before they go into effect.  Employers filing I-129 Petitions to sponsor H-1B, L, and O workers will be hit especially hard, by a double whammy of increases in Premium Processing from $2500 to $2805 (going into effect on 2/26) and a mandatory $600 Asylum Program fee, (going into effect on 4/1), wmust be submitted with every I-129 form regardless of how many I-129s an employer has submitted for the same employee. Continue reading “70% Increase in USCIS Filing Fees for H-1B, L, and O Applications on April 1, 2024”

H-1B Lottery Begins on March 1, 2024: It’s Time to Prepare

The H-1B Lottery Registration Window Opens March 1, 2024.  The ending date of the registration period has not yet been announced, but should be some time during mid-March. Employers and potential H-1B workers should determine now, whether they will enter and start preparing the necessary information and documentation for the submission. While an immigration attorney is not required for employers to submit their entries, it is highly recommended to have counsel for the process, as the USCIS online system can be confusing and prone to snafus.

Employers should consider entering any foreign workers who are on Optional Practical Training (OPT), STEM OPT, or who hold other nonimmigrant statuses, such as TN and O-1into the lottery. Evaluating the job description, salary requirements and credentials of each potential entry is important, as well as determining whether the foreign national might qualify for the master’s cap, giving them a better chance of selection. Experienced H-1B counsel can also assist in determining whether a particular candidate in a particular position, will have a successful H-1B application after being selected. Continue reading “H-1B Lottery Begins on March 1, 2024: It’s Time to Prepare”

H-1B Domestic Visa Validation Pilot Starts on January 29: How To Manual

Overview

On December 21, 2023 the Department of State published information on a pilot project to provide visa renewals in the United States.  Currently, any foreign national who needs to obtain a new U.S. visa must leave the United States to have their passport processed by a U.S. consulate abroad.  This costly, inconvenient, and unpredictable process has long been a source of frustration for visa holders, and their employers.  Below we provide details on this long awaited pilot. As strong advocates for our clients, we sincerely hope that it will be a success and will be rolled out for everyone during 2024. Continue reading “H-1B Domestic Visa Validation Pilot Starts on January 29: How To Manual”

USCIS International Entrepreneur Parole Program Gets Some Guidelines

Written By: Alejandra Vargas, Esq. and Kristopher Peters, Esq.

Some exciting news for Entrepreneurs! As part of an ongoing slate of new agency guidance regarding various immigration programs and visas, USCIS has issued comprehensive guidance regarding the International Entrepreneur Parole Program (“IEPP”). The published guidance introduces criteria for entrepreneurs who have a central and active role in a start-up U.S. company and who are seeking significant public benefit parole. The revival of the IEPP and corresponding agency guidance represents part of a series of ongoing efforts by the Biden Administration to increase and enhance entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in the United States.

What is the IEPP?  The IEPP was first introduced under the Obama Administration in 2017 as an additional avenue to facilitate the ability of startup founders to begin growing their companies within the United States, contingent on obtaining significant financing from U.S. investors. The stated goal of the IEPP when first announced was to “identify on a case-by-case basis entrepreneurs who would provide significant public benefit, based on factors including the entrepreneur’s ownership stake and leadership role; the growth potential of the startup; competitive research grants from federal, state, and local government agencies; and investment by qualified American investors.”

Under the program, entrepreneurs who own at least 10 percent of a startup and attract at least $250,000 in financing from U.S. investors can remain in the United States for initial period of up to 30 months, with the ability to request one additional period of re-parole of up to 30 months from the date of the expiration of the initial parole period, in the agency’s discretion.

Unfortunately, although the final rule creating the IEPP was published in January 2017, the program was suspended under the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration later resurrected the rule in May 2021, but until now comprehensive guidance regarding the actual criteria for consideration and selection under the IEPP did not exist.

IEPP Criteria for Consideration under new USCIS Guidance: Under the new USCIS Guidance, the agency is updating Volume 3, Part G of the USCIS Policy Manual to describe the eligibility criteria for selection under the IEPP program that was created under the initial IE final rule in January 2017. This includes comprehensive guidance on the criteria for consideration and related definitions for the applicant, the start-up entity, qualified investment grant, or award, as well as relevant evidence that may be submitted.

To qualify for selection under the IEPP, an applicant must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The applicant must demonstrate that a grant of parole will provide a significant public benefit to the United States based on the applicant’s entrepreneurial role.
  • The applicant must have substantial ownership in the startup entity (defined to mean at least a 10% ownership interest in the start-up entity).
  • The applicant must not be primarily engaged in the offer, purchase, sale or trading of securities, futures contracts, derivatives, or similar instruments.
  • The applicant must demonstrate that the proposed startup entity:
    • Has substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation
    • Was formed within the five (5) years immediately preceding the date of initial parole application; and
    • Has been lawfully doing business during any period of operation since the date of formation.
  • The applicant must obtain at least $250,000 in U.S. investment, if the application was filed before October 1, 2021, or $264,167 if the application is filed on or after October 1, 2021.
  • The financing must be good faith investment in the form of lawfully derived capital and specifically excludes investment from the entrepreneur themselves, close family and closely-held corporations.
  • The investment must come from a “qualified investor”, which is defined as a “U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the United States”, or a U.S.-based legal entity that is majority owned and controlled, directly and indirectly, by U.S. citizens or LPRs.

If the initial application is approved, the entrepreneur may be granted parole for both themselves and two other entrepreneurs (total of three entrepreneurs per start-up entity) for an initial period of up to 30 months, with the ability to submit a one-time request for re-parole for up to an additional 30 months from the date of expiration of the initial parole.

Other Highlights Under the New USCIS Guidance : The updated Guidance also addresses the process for the agency to adjudicate IEPP applications, how the agency evaluates whether the application will provide significant public benefit to the U.S., the conditions on parole and basis for termination, and the application process for the entrepreneur’s spouse. This includes detailing how the applicant’s spouse (but not children) may apply for work authorization after being paroled into the United States.

Additionally, the Guidance lays out the criteria for obtaining an additional parole period, including that the entrepreneur demonstrates that the re-parole will continue to provide a significant public benefit to the United States and either: (1) that the entity has received at least $528,293 in qualifying investments, (2) that the entity has created at least 5 qualified jobs during the initial parole period, or (3) that the entity has reached at least $528,293 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth throughout the initial parole period.

The revival of the IEPP program and updated Guidance represents an additional avenue by which entrepreneurs can invest, live and work in the United States. This is in addition to, or alongside, other potential options including E visas (for nationals of qualifying treaty countries), O-1 visas (for individuals with an accomplished portfolio in their respective field), and others.

Please contact a member of our Immigration Group for more information about either potential eligibility for parole under the IEPP or other visa options that may be available to you.

 

 

Premium Processing Expanded to Initial NIW and Multinational Manager I-140s on January 30, 2023

USCIS has announced the final phase of Premium Processing expansion for EB-1 I-140 petitions. Starting on January 30, 2023, USCIS will accept Form I-907 applications for all pending multinational manager and executive petitions as well as National Interset Waiver (NIWs) petitions AND all initial filings for these categories. USCIS has also announced that additional Premium Processing expansions will be announced in March for F-1 students seeking work authorization throuhg Optional Practical Training (OPT) and STEM OPT. 

These announcements continue the slow roll out of addtional categores of USCIS applications in which the Premium Processing service is available.  This service costs $2500 and guarantees the applicant that USCIS will take some action on a petition with in 15 calendar days for most petitions, including I-129s and many I-140s. For NIWs and Multinational Manager I-140s USCIS has increased the time frame to 45 days.  

This is a welcome announcement for applicants and employers alike. Current procesing times for NIWs and Multinational Manager petitions can run upwards of 18 months leaving applicants in bureacratic limbo for long periods of time. However, careful consdideration must be given when deciding whether to opt for the Premium Processing Service.  Immigration practitioners and hard data both confirm that applicants who choose Premium Processing are much more likely to receive Requests for Evidence (RFE) on their petitions from USCIS.  Once an RFE is recieved, the clock stops, and does not restart again until the applicant responds to the RFE. 

More information on Premium Processing and application eligibility can be found here

Options for H-1B Workers after Employment Termination

With recent layoffs in the tech industry, H-1B and other nonimmigrant workers may find themselves stranded in the US with no work and potentially no legal immigration status.  USCIS has issued detailed information for these workers, explaining their options and some relief that may be available in certain circumstanes:

60-Day Grace Period:  Regulations permit a discretionary grace period that allows workers in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or TN classifications (and their dependents) to be considered as having maintained status following the cessation of employment for up to 60 consecutive calendar days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter.  During this period, workers may be able to maintain their nonimmigrant status if a new employer timely files a petition on their behalf with an extension of stay request (e.g., an H-1B change of employer petition for a worker in H-1B status).

Portability:  Portability rules permit workers currently in H-1B status to begin working for a new employer as soon as the employer properly files a new H-1B petition with USCIS, without waiting for the petition to be approved.  Also, a worker with an adjustment of status application (Form I-485) that has been pending for at least 180 days with an underlying valid immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) has the ability to transfer the underlying immigrant visa petition to a new offer of employment in the same or similar occupational classification with the same or a new employer.

Change of Status and/or Employer: Workers may use the up to 60-day discretionary grace period to apply to change their nonimmigrant status, which may include changing status to become the dependent of a spouse (e.g., H-4, L-2). Some individuals in a dependent nonimmigrant status may be eligible for employment authorization incident to status, including spouses of E-1, E-2, E-3, or L-1 nonimmigrants.

There are other options available as well, depending upon individual circumstances. It is highly advisable for anyone who finds themself terminated from the employment that is underlying their nonimmigrant visa status to contact immigration counsel to review all of the legal options, and  immigration consequences of the termination.

Good USCIS News: Policy Pronouncements Recognize Real-Life Customer Service Issues and try to Fix Them

New polices going into effect today will address application processing delays and their negative impacts on applicants, including loss of work authorization due to USCIS processing delays; delayed foreign national start dates due to USCIS adjudication delays and RFEs; and giving more applicants more opportunities to request that their applications be expedited.

Work Permit Validity Extended: from 1 year to 2 years for Adjustment of Status Applicants (Category C-09). This will greatly reduce the inconvenience or applying for new permits and job loss due to expiring permits; Continue reading “Good USCIS News: Policy Pronouncements Recognize Real-Life Customer Service Issues and try to Fix Them”

Hiring and Immigration: Questions to Ask and Factors to Consider

Hiring season is fraught with questions and uncertainties; preparing employment applications;  interviewing, drafting offer letters….. What questions can be asked? What questions should be asked? These concerns are even more pronounced when it comes to immigration status, and immigration sponsorship.  Those tasked with the hiring process often ask,  whether it is legal to ask applicants about their immigration status, how to ask that question,  and even more important,  “Do we have to sponsor for immigration status if the applicant needs it?”

Read the full post here: 

H-1B Lottery Selection Criteria May Change to Salary-Based Process

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a new rule that transforms the  random cap H-1B selection process to one that prioritizes registrations and petitions based on the highest Department of Labor (DOL) prevailing wage level met by the offered salary. It is not clear yet whether the incoming Biden administration will implement this rule at all or with modifications. Learn more in our recent client alert.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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