H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period for FY 2023 Opens March 1

The initial registration period for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon ET on March 1, 2022, and run through noon ET on March 18, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced. During this period, prospective petitioners and representatives will be able to complete and submit their registrations using the USCIS online H-1B registration system, for foreign workers with an October 1, 2022, start date.

USCIS will assign a confirmation number to each registration submitted for the FY 2023 H-1B cap.

USCIS said that this number is used solely to track registrations and cannot be used to track case status in Case Status Online.

USCIS said prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives must use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary.

Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations (“registrants”—U.S. employers and U.S. agents) will use a “registrant” account. Registrants will be able to create new accounts beginning at noon ET on February 21, 2022 but must wait until March 1 to enter beneficiary information and submit the registration with fee.

If USCIS receives enough registrations by March 18, it will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. The agency said it will notify selected account holders by March 31.

USCIS noted that an H-1B cap-subject petition, including a petition for a beneficiary who is eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary named in the H-1B petition was selected in the H-1B registration process.

Source: ABIL Newsletter, January 30, 2022

  • USCIS alert, Jan. 28, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/fy-2023-h-1b-cap-initial-registration-period-opens-on-march-1

USCIS Provides Updated Guidance on Expedite Requests

USCIS updated its Policy Manual to reflect new guidance, effective immediately, on how the agency determines whether a case warrants expedited treatment. The update:

  • Clarifies the criteria and circumstances under which USCIS generally considers expedite requests from nonprofit organizations as determined by the Internal Revenue Service;
  • Provides additional examples of when USCIS may consider expedite requests made by federal, state, or local agencies, including labor and employment agencies;
  • Adds examples to further illustrate how the expedite criteria relate to emergencies and urgent humanitarian reasons; and
  • Explains that some circumstances may affect or delay the agency’s ability to expedite an application or petition.

Source: ABIL Newsletter, January 30, 2022

  • USCIS alert, Jan. 25, 2022, https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-updates-guidance-on-expedite-requests
  • How to Make an Expedite Request, USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/forms/filing-guidance/how-to-make-an-expedite-request

New COVID-19 Vaccine Requirement for Non-U.S. Travelers Announced by CBP

As of January 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is requiring non-U.S. individuals seeking to enter the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. DHS said this was necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise nationwide.

The new restriction applies to non-U.S. individuals who are traveling for both essential and non-essential reasons. It does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or U.S. nationals.

The Biden administration previously ordered that noncitizen nonimmigrants be vaccinated against COVID-19 before entering the United States by air, except in limited circumstances.

Source: ABIL Newsletter, January 30, 2022

  • “Fact Sheet: Guidance for Travelers to Enter the U.S. at Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals,” DHS, updated Jan. 20, 2022, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/10/29/fact-sheet-guidance-travelers-enter-us-land-ports-entry-and-ferry-terminals · CBPOne Mobile Application (single portal to a variety of CBP services), https://www.cbp.gov/about/mobile-apps-directory/cbpone

House Democrats Propose New Startup Visa in New Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives’ sweeping proposal to increase U.S. competitiveness with China would carve out new immigration pathways for foreign entrepreneurs looking to open new businesses in the U.S.

The America COMPETES Act of 2022 looks to increase the number of foreigners who create new U.S. businesses with a proposed new “W” visa covering startup founders, their essential employees and their families. The bill would also allow successful entrepreneurs to self-petition for green cards, according to the bill, rather than wait for sponsorship.

Currently, only the International Entrepreneur Parole Program allows people to stay in the U.S. to start a company. But that program, which is not a visa program, exists solely at the prerogative of the executive branch and was largely frozen under the Trump administration.

The proposed W visa would be available for people with a minimum 10% stake in a startup that meets certain fundraising criteria and its key employees. The visa would last for three years but could be extended for a maximum eight-year lifespan for people whose businesses create at least five U.S. jobs and pass certain investment and revenue thresholds.

If the startup continues to grow, those startup founders and employees would then be able to self-petition for a green card. Gelatt stressed that provision, saying that most green card holders are sponsored for their immigrant visas by a family member or employer.

The bill also exempts people with doctorates in a STEM field from the per-country green card caps, a provision that Gelatt said could potentially benefit highly educated Indian and Chinese green card seekers stuck in long green card backlogs.

Source: Alyssa Aquino, Law360, January 26, 2022: https://www.law360.com/immigration/articles/1458935/dems-competition-bill-would-create-new-startup-visa

State Department to Address Visa Backlogs Through Hiring

The U.S. Department of State is planning on hiring dozens of foreign service officers to address staffing shortages that have contributed to long delays in visa processing, according to information posted on its website Tuesday.

In response to questions from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) regarding the department’s efforts to speed up visa processing, the State Department said it plans on hiring foreign service officers at numbers above the rate of attrition and intends to recruit more than 60 limited noncareer appointment consular professionals, or LNAs, in fiscal year 2022.

However, many posts will have to wait until the second half of FY 2022 or FY 2023 for the extra staff, the department said.

It further cautioned that the extra hiring alone would not immediately reduce the visa backlogs, which has seen foreigners waiting months to schedule required in-person consular interviews to obtain a visa.

The hiring goals and timetable offer more insight into the State Department’s plans to hire more than 500 new foreign and civil service officers to speed up visa processing times, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced during a June 2021 congressional hearing.

Visa backlogs skyrocketed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as U.S. embassies and consulates shut down routine visa services or restricted operations to curb the spread of the virus.

Although visa processing has since resumed, the consulates face extensive backlogs, with more than 439,000 people waiting to schedule a green card interview in January, more than seven times the average monthly waitlist for 2019, according to the State Department’s visa backlog reports.

It will take at least 56 months for the State Department to bring its green card interview scheduling rates back to pre-pandemic levels, estimates Boundless Immigration, a tech company that helps immigrants apply for green cards and U.S. citizenship.

Source: Alyssa Aquino, Law360, January 25, 2022: https://www.law360.com/immigration/articles/1458512/state-dept-boosts-hiring-to-address-visa-backlogs

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