U.S. Immigration Updates – Week of January 16, 2024

 

USCIS Is Set to Enable Online Collaboration and Submission of H-1B Registrations

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced the upcoming launch of a package of customer experience improvements for H-1B cap season.

  • The measures are expected to increase efficiency and ease collaboration for organizations and their legal representatives.
  • USCIS will launch organizational accounts for non-cap filings and the fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap season. The introduction of organizational accounts will allow multiple individuals within an organization, such as a company or other business entity, and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations, Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and associated Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.
  • USCIS expects to launch the organizational accounts in February 2024, with online filing of Forms I-129 and I-907 following shortly thereafter.
  • In addition to streamlining the Form I-129 H-1B petition process, these changes should help reduce duplicate H-1B registrations and other common errors.
  • USCIS will also transition the paper filing location for Forms I-129 and I-907 from service centers to the USCIS lockbox as part of their efforts to increase efficiency by standardizing processes and reducing costs.

Upload Engagement Sessions

USCIS will host two national engagements on organizational accounts on Jan. 23 and 24 as well as several smaller sessions leading up to the H-1B registration period to help guide organizations and legal representatives through the process.

  • During these sessions individuals will have the opportunity to ask questions about the organizational accounts in preparation for the FY 2025 H-1B electronic registration process and launch of online filing of Form I-129 for H-1B petitions.
  • USCIS encourages all individuals involved in the H-1B registration and petition filing process to attend these engagements. Invitations to these engagements will be sent later this month.
  • For more information, please visit the USCIS Newsroom (uscis.gov/newsroom/all-news).

Department of Labor Increases Civil Monetary Penalties for Certain Employer Violations

Effective January 15, 2024, as part of annual inflation adjustments, the Department of Labor (DOL) is increasing D-1, H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B civil monetary penalties it assesses or enforces for employer violations.

To compute the 2024 annual adjustment, DOL multiplied the most recent penalty amount for each applicable penalty by the multiplier, 1.03241, and rounded to the nearest dollar.

SOURCE: DOL final rule, 89 Fed. Reg. 1810 (Jan. 11, 2024).

USCIS Data Show Increase in O-1A and EB-2 NIW Approvals for STEM Activities

According to a newly released report, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data show a sizable overall increase in O-1A petition approvals for individuals engaged in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) activities and in National Interest Waiver (NIW) EB-2 petition approvals for individuals engaged in STEM activities, compared to fiscal year 2021, before USCIS issued new policy guidance in January 2022. USCIS noted:

  • From FY 2021 to FY 2022, total receipts of Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, with and without waivers (combined) increased by 20 percent, from 70,600 to 84,470. Receipts continued to increase by another 10 percent from FY 2022 to FY 2023. Approvals increased by 60 percent from 57,810 in FY 2021 to 92,280 in FY 2022 but decreased about 12 percent from 92,280 in FY 2022 to 81,380 in FY 2023. The approval rate remained at 90 percent or above throughout FY 2018-FY 2023. Total EB-2 receipts in STEM job categories decreased by almost 13 percent, from 61,790 in FY 2022 to 53,960 in FY 2023. Receipts in non-STEM job categories increased by 28 percent during that time.
  • An increasing number of EB-2 petitioners are requesting NIWs, USCIS said. The number of petitions with NIW requests almost doubled, from 21,990 in FY 2022 to 39,810 in FY 2023; the number of petitions without NIW requests dropped from 62,490 to 53,200.
  • From FY 2021 to FY 2022, total receipts of Form I-129 for O-1A petitioners increased 29 percent, from 7,710 to 9,970. They continued to increase slightly from 9,970 in FY 2022 to 10,010 in FY 2023 (see Figure 4). Approvals followed a similar trend by increasing by 25 percent from FY 2021 to FY 2022, from 7,320 to 9,120. They continued to increase slightly from 9,120 in FY 2022 to 9,490 in FY 2023. The approval rate remained stable at 90 percent or above throughout FY 2018-FY 2023.
  • From FY 2021 to FY 2022, total approvals of STEM-related O-1A Form I-129 petitions increased 29 percent, from 3,550 to 4,570. From FY 2022 to FY 2023, approvals remained almost the same, from 4,570 to 4,560. Approvals of non-STEM-related petitions followed a similar trend increasing 21 percent, from 3,410 in FY 2021 to 4,140 in FY 2022. Approvals increased slightly from 4,140 in FY 2022 to 4,380 in FY 2023.

The January 2022 policy guidance clarified how certain professionals in STEM fields can demonstrate eligibility for (a) the NIW in employment-based immigrant status (EB-2), along with the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities, and (b) nonimmigrant status for individuals of extraordinary ability (O-1A).

SOURCE: STEM-Related Petition Trends: EB-2 and O-1A Categories FY 2018-FY 2023, USCIS (N.D.).

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