By: Cristina Perez, Esq.
2020 will be another year of policy changes, continued workplace enforcement and aggressive adjudications across all applications, all in the name of national security and efficiency in the immigration system. Here are two major changes that will affect all industries who employ and sponsor foreign professionals:
1. New H-1B Registration Tool
On December 6, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced the implementation of a mandatory electronic registration for employers seeking to submit H-1B applications subject to the H-1B cap. Employers seeking to file FY2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay a non-refundable $10 fee for each electronic registration/application which will be submitted directly to USCIS.
Under this new process, employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the cap will complete a registration process that will require only basic information about the company and each requested worker. This new process will allow employers to enter the lottery for the 85,000 visas that become available October 1, 2020, without having to complete and submit a full petition.
This initial registration period will commence on March 1, 2020. Employers and their representatives will be able to set up required registration accounts prior to March 1, 2020. USCIS intends to close the initial registration period on March 20, 2020 and will announce the actual end date of the initial registration period on its website. USCIS will then run a random selection process on those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. Registrants will be notified no later than March 31, 2020. Prospective petitioners with selected registrations will be eligible to file a FY2021 cap-subject petition only for the alien named.
This registration process, along with a potential rule that will revise the definition of “specialty occupation,” among other things, is one more layer to add to the already difficult, painstaking and frustrating H-1B process. USCIS will post step-by-step instructions on how to complete the registration process, along with key dates and timelines, on its website as the initial registration period nears. We advise all employers to remain vigilant of this developing process.
2. USCIS Filing Fee Increases
Applying for any immigration benefit will be more expensive in 2020. In November 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) proposed a rule which would make changes to the USCIS fee schedule. In this rule, DHS proposed to adjust USCIS fees by a weighted average increase of 21%, add new fees, and make other changes, including form changes and the introduction of several new forms.
The proposed rule would force USCIS customers to pay more for less, as USCIS proposes the fee increase without offering evidence that this increase will reverse the ongoing backlog and deterioration of the agency’s immigration benefit services, thrusting upon the public the costs of its own inefficiency. If implemented, families, protection seekers, and American businesses throughout the country would face the dual burden of increased fees and decreased services. The proposed fee hikes, coupled with the elimination of vital fee waivers, would price many individuals and families out of our legal immigration system. If the rule is implemented, application fees for green cards, along with associated work and travel authorization, would likely surge by at least 75%, and for citizenship by at least 80%.
Note, some of the information in this Alert was derived from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
If you have any questions regarding professional visas or any immigration issue affecting an employer, please contact Cristina Perez. Cristina is a Partner and Chair of Leech Tishman’s Immigration Practice Group. Cristina is based in the firm’s Pasadena office and can be reached at 818.550.8300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in alternative dispute resolution, aviation & aerospace, bankruptcy & creditors’ rights, construction, corporate, employee benefits, employment, energy, environmental, estates & trusts, family law, government relations, immigration, insurance coverage & corporate risk mitigation, intellectual property, internal investigations, international legal matters, litigation, real estate, and taxation. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in El Segundo, CA, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Sarasota and Wilmington, DE.