USCIS Publishes Proposed Rule to Raise Fees
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule on January 4, 2023, to raise fees. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also proposes to fund the asylum program with a controversial new Asylum Program Fee of $600 to be paid by employers who file either a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, or Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. DHS said it has determined “that the Asylum Program Fee is an effective way to shift some costs to requests that are generally submitted by petitioners who have more ability to pay, as opposed to shifting those costs to all other fee payers.” This new $600 fee would be in addition to processing fees for those petitions.
USCIS said it “cannot maintain adequate service levels with the effects of the budget cuts and its current level of spending without lasting impacts on operations.” The proposed rule states that if USCIS fees are not adjusted, “USCIS processing times and backlogs will not improve.”
The proposed changes include, among others, incorporating biometrics costs into the main benefit fee and removing the separate biometrics fee; requiring separate filing fees for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and associated Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (advance parole), and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; establishing separate fees for Form I-129 by nonimmigrant classification; revising the premium processing timeframe interpretation from calendar days to business days; and creating lower fees for forms filed online.
The proposed fee hikes include, among others:
· Application for Employment Authorization– Online, from current $410 to new $555
· Application for Employment Authorization– Paper, from current $410 to new $650
· Application for Employment Authorization– Online and Paper (with biometric services), from current $495 to new $650
· H-1B Pre-Registration Fee, from current $10 to proposed $215
· I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker: H-1 Classifications, from current $460 to proposed $780
· I-129 Petition for L Nonimmigrant Worker, from current $460 to proposed $1,385
· I-129 Petition for O Nonimmigrant Worker, from current $460 to proposed $1,055
· I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, from current $700 to proposed $715
Comments on the proposed rule are due by March 6, 2023. USCIS will hold a public engagement session on January 11, 2023, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. ET. For more information or to register, see https://www.uscis.gov/outreach/upcoming-national-engagements/uscis-virtual-listening-session-on-proposed-rule-to-adjust-certain-immigration-fees.
SOURCE: ABIL Immigration Insider, January 8, 2023; and https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2023-01-04/pdf/2022-27066.pdf
U.S. Embassy in Havana Resumes Immigrant Visa Processing
On January 4, 2023, the U.S. Embassy in Havana resumed full immigrant visa processing, including all visa categories. The embassy also announced that the United States is expanding consular operations in Havana and restarting the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.
Since 2017, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, was serving as the primary processing location for Cuban immigrant visa applicants while the U.S. Embassy in Havana was closed due to unexplained health-related incidents.
SOURCE: ABIL Immigration Services, January 8, 2023, and https://cu.usembassy.gov/resumption-of-visa-services
DHS Proposes Regulatory Changes to H-1B and Adjustment of Status Applications
The Department of Homeland Security is proposing regulatory changes to adjustment of status (AOS) procedures as well as to the H-1B. DHS proposes to amend its regulations in order to improve the efficiency in the processing of the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), reduce processing times, improve the quality of inventory data provided to partner agencies, reduce the potential for visa retrogression, and promote the efficient use of immediately available immigrant visas to include the expansion of concurrent filing to the employment-based fourth preference (certain special immigrants) category, including religious workers.
DHS is also proposing to amend its regulations governing H-1B specialty occupation workers and F-1 students who are the beneficiaries of timely filed H-1B cap-subject petitions. Specifically, DHS proposes to revise the regulations relating to ‘employer-employee relationship’ and provide flexibility for start-up entrepreneurs; implement new requirements and guidelines for site visits including in connection with petitions filed by H-1B dependent employers whose basic business information cannot be validated through commercially available data; provide flexibility on the employment start date listed on the petition (in limited circumstances); address ‘cap-gap’ issues; bolster the H-1B registration process to reduce the possibility of misuse and fraud in the H-1B registration system; and clarify the requirement that an amended or new petition be filed where there are material changes, including by streamlining notification requirements relating to certain worksite changes, among other provisions.
SOURCES: Stuart Anderson, Forbes, January 3, 2023: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2023/01/03/the-outlook-on-h-1b-visas-and-immigration-in-2023/?sh=4a6415d16980; AOS proposal: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=202204&RIN=1615-AC22; H-1B proposal: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=202204&RIN=1615-AC70