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”
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.
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”
On May 16, 2019, the president announced a plan to reform the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on increased border security as well as a plan to replace the employment-based green card system with a points system modeled on immigration programs in other countries, including Canada and Australia.
While specific details of the plan have not been disclosed, it is to be a merit-based system that would assess permanent residence applicants on the basis of criteria that include age, skills, education level, offer of employment, job creation potential and wage level.
The White House is continuing to slowly roll out many of the 2014 promised changes to improve the U.S. immigration system. New regulations, published in the Federal Register on December 31, 2015 seek to modernize and improve certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs for high-skilled foreign workers. Benefits to participants in those programs would include improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and non-immigrant workers; greater stability and job flexibility for such workers; and more transparency and consistency in the application of DHS policy.
Many of these changes are aimed at improving the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled foreign nationals who are already the beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while also increasing employment flexibility for such workers. The proposed regulations would increase the ability of such workers to further their careers by accepting promotions, making position changes with current employers, changing employers, and pursuing other employment opportunities in the U.S. job market.
Some of the highlights of the proposed rule include:
Improved Job Portability with an Approved I-140:
The proposed rule would limit the grounds for automatic revocation of approved I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker. Once an I-140 has been approved for 180 days or more, it will still be valid for purposes of retaining one’s priority date and extending one’s H-1B status, even if the employer subsequently withdraws the petition or the employer’s business shuts down. The exception to this rule would be cases of fraud, misrepresentation, and a few other limited situations.
One-Time Grace Periods
The proposed rule would authorize a one-time grace period for certain nonimmigrant workers of up to sixty (60) days after employment ends, or until the existing validity period ends, whichever is shorter. This grace period would apply to those in H-1B, E, L-1, and TN status. Similar flexibility already applies to F-1 nonimmigrant students and j-1 nonimmigrant exchange visitors.
Eligibility for Employment Authorization in Compelling Circumstances
The proposed rule would allow certain high-skilled individuals in the United States in H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1, or E-3 nonimmigrant status who are the beneficiaries of an approved I-140 petition to apply for one year of restricted employment authorization if they:
- are unable to adjust status due to visa backlogs; and
- can demonstrate “compelling circumstances” which justify issuing an employment authorization document.
At this time, DHS has not defined the term “compelling circumstances,” however the proposed rule offers possible examples such as serious illnesses/disabilities or cases of employer retaliation. Accordingly, this benefit will likely only apply in very limited circumstances.
Automatic Extensions of EAD Work Authorization in Certain Circumstances
The proposed rule would amend the way USCIS processes applications for employment authorization to help prevent gaps in work authorization that are problematic for foreign nationals and their U.S. employers. Specifically, DHS is proposing to repeal the current regulations that require the issuance of interim EADs if the I-765 application for work authorization (“EAD”) has been pending more than 90 days. Under the new rule, USCIS will automatically extend the EAD for up to 180 days upon the timely filing of a renewal application for applicants who meet certain requirements. To be eligible for this benefit, the renewal application must be based on the same employment authorization category as the expiring EAD, among other requirements.
The proposed rule also clarifies various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including extensions of status, determining cap exemptions, and counting workers under the H-1B visa cap.
USCIS is seeking public comment on the proposed rule through February 29, 2016. The proposed changes would take effect on the date indicated in the final rule once it is published in the Federal Register.
Special thanks to Christina Haines, Esq. for her assistance with this blog post.