Dear Clients and Colleagues,
We hope this newsletter finds you well. In this edition, we bring you important updates on various immigration matters. Please take a moment to review the following key highlights:
USCIS Announces Digital Revolution for H-1B Registration and Filing
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is set to transform the H-1B visa application process with a new digital filing system, starting at the end of February 2024. This initiative aims to enhance efficiency and collaboration in H-1B registrations and filings.
Organizational Accounts and Online Collaboration
- Launch Timeline: USCIS will introduce organizational accounts for non-cap filings and the FY 2025 H-1B cap season, expected to go live in February 2024.
- Collaboration Features: These accounts will allow multiple individuals within an organization, including legal representatives, to collaboratively work on H-1B registrations, Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker), and associated Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service).
- USCIS Director's Statement: USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou highlights the move towards a fully electronic H-1B lifecycle, from registration to final decision.
Online Filing for I-129 H-1B Petitions and I-907 Premium Processing
- Efficiency Gains: The online filing of Forms I-129 and I-907 is expected to reduce common errors and duplicate registrations.
- Transition of Filing Location: Filing for Forms I-129 and I-907 will shift from service centers to the USCIS lockbox, standardizing processes and reducing costs.
National Engagements and Training Sessions
- Scheduled Sessions: USCIS did host national engagements on January 23 and 24, and will host additional sessions leading up to the H-1B registration period.
- Purpose: These sessions are designed to guide organizations and legal representatives through the new process.
- Invitations and Information: Invitations for these sessions will be sent later this month. Detailed information on organizational accounts will be available on the H-1B Electronic Registration Process page.
Additional Information from Teleconferences
- Company Groups and User Classes: Companies will be able to create groups for collaboration, with different levels of permissions for administrators and members.
- Legal Representatives: Attorneys and legal representatives can be authorized to manage key aspects of a petition.
- Limitations: Initially, the system will be limited to H1B registrations and petitions. Extensions to other categories and H-4 dependents' online applications are under consideration but not yet available.
Preparation for Online Filing
- Roles and Responsibilities: USCIS advises employers to decide internally on the setup of their company groups and roles.
- Multiple Groups, Single Membership: An individual cannot be part of more than one group, and groups cannot collaborate with each other within the system.
The introduction of the USCIS organizational accounts system and online filing represents a significant step towards a more efficient and streamlined process for H-1B visa applications. As the system launches, further specific details and guidance are expected to be provided by USCIS.
Stay informed and prepared for these exciting changes in the H-1B visa process.
Introducing the Domestic Renewal of H-1B Visas - A Pilot Program Overview
The Department of State has recently announced a groundbreaking pilot program for the domestic renewal of H-1B nonimmigrant visas. This initiative, starting January 29, 2024, offers a streamlined process for eligible H-1B visa holders. Here's what you need to know:
Key Highlights of the Pilot Program
- Program Duration: The pilot is open from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or until all application slots are filled.
- Voluntary Participation: Eligible individuals can choose to participate in this program or continue with traditional renewal processes at U.S. embassies or consulates overseas.
- Eligibility Criteria: Initially, the program is limited to those whose last H-1B visa was issued in India or Canada. An online navigator tool is available to help applicants assess their eligibility.
- Use the online navigator tool to determine eligibility based on your most recent H-1B visa issuance country (India or Canada).
- Eligible candidates can then fill out the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (form DS-160).
- Pay the $205 Machine-Readable Visa (MRV) application processing fee via the online portal.
- Follow portal instructions to mail your passport and other required documents for processing.
Limited Application Slots and Entry Period Dates
- A total of 20,000 application slots are available.
- Approximately 2,000 slots per week are allocated for applicants with visas issued by U.S. Mission Canada (January 1, 2020 - April 1, 2023) and U.S. Mission India (February 1, 2021 - September 30, 2021).
- Application slots are open on specific dates, starting January 29, 2024, and then weekly until February 26, 2024.
- Applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
Important to Note
- If you miss one application date, you can attempt on subsequent dates within the entry period.
- The pilot concludes once all slots are filled or by April 1, 2024.
Applying Through the Portal
Applicants can only apply via the designated portal on the specified dates. For detailed instructions and the portal link, click here
This pilot program represents a significant step forward in visa renewal efficiency and convenience. For more information and regular updates, stay connected with our law firm.
USCIS Faces Criticism Over STEM OPT Application Denials
Recent developments have brought to light a concerning trend where the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been mistakenly denying STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) applications for F-1 students. These denials, often citing a mismatch between the applicant's degree and the STEM designated fields list, have raised questions about the USCIS's evaluation process.
- F-1 students are eligible to apply for a 24-month STEM OPT extension if they have a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics.
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) uses the STEM Designated Degree Program List, with specific Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes, to determine eligibility.
- Colleges and universities assign these CIP codes based on their curriculum, a critical factor overlooked in recent denials.
Issue at Hand
- USCIS has erroneously denied or requested further evidence for STEM OPT extensions filed via Form I-765.
- The core issue arises from discrepancies in degree program titles and corresponding CIP code names on the DHS list.
- This oversight has led to wrongful denials, disregarding the actual curriculum-based CIP code assignments.
Hope for Affected Students
- There is a growing need for legal intervention to challenge and reverse these decisions.
- Past successes in reversing similar denials offer hope to those currently affected.
The implications of these erroneous denials are significant, potentially impacting students' ability to remain in the U.S. and pursue their careers. Students and educational institutions are urged to be vigilant and prepared to contest such denials. Greencardmaker.com is committed to providing ongoing updates and guidance on this evolving issue.
Legal Challenges and Reversals: Do not give up hope! We have successfully challenged and reversed such denials for several clients.
Stay informed with greencardmaker.com for further updates and support on this matter.
USCIS Policy Update: Flexibility for Untimely Filed Extension of Stay and Change of Status Requests
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced a significant update to its Policy Manual, bringing pivotal changes to the processing of untimely filed extension of stay and change of status requests by nonimmigrants.
- Discretionary Excuse for Delays: USCIS may now, under specific conditions, excuse delays in filing extension of stay or change of status requests if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant's or petitioner's control.
- Defining Extraordinary Circumstances: The update provides examples of what may constitute extraordinary circumstances, such as work-related slowdowns or stoppages due to strikes, lockouts, or other labor disputes. Additionally, delays caused by lapses in government funding affecting the procurement of necessary certifications are also considered.
USCIS Role in Visa Process
- While USCIS does not issue visas, it plays a crucial role in adjudicating requests for extensions of stay and changes of status. These processes are vital for nonimmigrants in the U.S. who seek to extend their admission period or change their nonimmigrant classification.
Standard USCIS Practice
- Traditionally, USCIS has not approved extensions or changes of status for individuals who failed to maintain their previously accorded status or if their status expired before the application or petition was filed. However, with the new update, USCIS can exercise discretion to overlook these failures if certain conditions are met.
This update from USCIS marks a significant shift towards a more flexible and understanding approach to immigration processes, especially in scenarios where applicants face unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances. It reflects a commitment to adapting policies in response to real-world challenges faced by nonimmigrants in the United States.
We hope you find this information valuable. If you have any questions or require legal assistance related to any of these updates, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help.
Keshab Raj Seadie, Esq.
Law Offices of Keshab Raj Seadie, P.C.
Disclaimer: This newsletter is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult an attorney for personalized advice.