USCIS Suddenly Begins Selecting New H-1B Lottery Winners

There were apparently not enough cap H-1B filings so USCIS is selecting additional H-1B lottery winners from the registration that was run in March. This is some unexpected good news. If Chin & Curtis assisted with a previous cap H-1B registration, your attorney will reach out to notify you of any additional selections. The new selections should also appear in the employer’s myUSCIS H-1B registrant account.

Those newly selected may now have an H-1B petition filed between August 17, 2020 and November 16, 2020.

DHS to Raise Fees Significantly for Many Immigration Benefits

DHS announced a final rule that will come into effect on October 2, 2020 significantly increasing many USCIS filing fees and reducing a few others.Overall, DHS said it is increasing USCIS fees by a “weighted average” of 20 percent.

Some notable fee changes include:

  • Varying increases for Form I-129 Petitions for a Nonimmigrant Worker from the current fee of $460, including:
    • $555 for H-1Bs
    • $805 for L-1s
    • $705 for O-1s
  • An increase of 34% for Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (non-DACA) to $550 from $410
  • A decrease of 21% for Form I-140 Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker to $555 from $700

Most troubling are increases to naturalization filing fees, and a new application fee for applications for asylum, which would make the U.S. one of only four countries in the world that charges a fee for initial applications for asylum or refugee protection (the others being Iran, Fiji, and Australia).The Form I-589, Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal, which formerly had no fee, will now have a fee of $50.  The Form N-400, Application for Naturalization fee will increase by 83% to $1,170, from its current $640. Moreover, the rule proposes to remove most options for receiving a waiver of the N-400 application fee for low-income individuals.

USCIS Cancels Staff Furloughs

USCIS has cancelled plans to furlough more than 13,000 of its employees. The furloughs were initially set to begin on August 3 but had been postponed to August 30. USCIS said in a statement that the furloughs were able to be avoided due to “unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.” However, USCIS noted “averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.” According to USCIS, a return to normal operating procedures will require congressional action.

While the cancellation of the furloughs, which could have essentially brought the U.S. immigration system to a standstill, is certainly good news, USCIS’s predicted increase in what are already unreasonable backlogs and wait times is concerning.

State Dept. Issues Additional Guidance on National Interest Exceptions to COVID-19-related Travel Restrictions

On August 12, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued updated guidance for waivers of the recent presidential proclamation limiting entry to the U.S. of certain L, H and other nonimmigrant visas. In particular, DOS has specified the types of travel that may be considered to be in the “national interest,” and therefore fall within an exception for those who are subject to the proclamation.

As we indicated in a recent client alert, this guidance has the effect of significantly expanding those who can travel to the U.S., listing several categories of individuals who may qualify for an exception. Individuals who believe their travel falls into one of these categories may request a visa application appointment at the closest U.S. consulate and a decision will be made at the time of the interview.

Additionally, COVID-19-related travel bans also remain in place for several countries and regions. The Department of State released updated guidance on July 22, 2020, stating that certain business travelers, investors, treaty traders, academics, and students may qualify for national interest exceptions to these bans.  For more information on these exceptions and their availability through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Boston Logan Airport, please see our recent blog post on this topic.

EAD Printing Delays Lead to USCIS I-9 Policy Flexibility

There have been delays at USCIS in printing employment authorization documents, creating a significant problem for individuals with approved EADs but no original card to show to an employer. As a result, employees may present their Form I-797 approval notice with an approval date between December 1, 2019 and August 20, 2020 as a Form I-9 document that establishes work authorization, even though the notice states it is not evidence of that.

Employees may present the I-797 Notice of Action for Form I-9 compliance until December 1, 2020.By December 1, 2020, employers must reverify employees who presented the I-797 Notice of Action as a List C document.

State Dept.’s Visa Bulletin Shows Little Movement, but Includes Info on Employment Limit for FY 2020 and DV-2021 Results and Timetable

The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for the month of September 2020 includes no movement in the employment-based preference categories, with the exception of a slight move forward for India and China in the EB-1 category. September’s bulletin includes the following information:

  • The employment preference numerical limit for fiscal year (FY) 2020 is 156,253. For FY 2020, the per-country limit is 26,758. The dependent area annual limit is 7,645.
  • The Kentucky Consular Center in Williamsburg, Kentucky, has registered and notified the winners of the DV-2021 diversity visa lottery. Approximately 132,404 applicants have been registered and notified and may now make an application for an immigrant visa from among the 55,000 permanent resident visas available under this program for the fiscal year. Selected applicants who do not receive visas by September 30, 2021, will derive no further benefit from their DV-2021 registration. The bulletin also includes a country-by-country breakdown of those registered for the DV-2021 program.
  • Dates for the DV-2022 program registration period will be widely publicized in the coming months.

New Blog Posts

The Chin & Curtis team authored several new blog posts over the past month. This month, we examined national interest exceptions to travel bans, how to protest safely as a noncitizen, and the backlog in naturalization oaths, among others.