Beware the Ides of… April?
It’s a busy time for the DHS, DOS, and USCIS. Multiple new initiatives and a large fee increase are taking shape right now. It is important for employers, employees, and potential applicants to be aware of the large changes coming to the U.S. immigration system in the next few weeks.
USCIS Fee Increases in 2024
The Department of Homeland Security has released its Final Rule Adjusting the USCIS Fee Schedule, which will be effective April 1, 2024. Any USCIS request postmarked on or after that date must follow the fees outlined by the new rule. There are major increases across the board for a large number of USCIS applications and petitions. Of specific note is a breakout of I-129 fees by type and some huge increases for certain petitions, including an eye-watering 201% increase to L1 petitions and a 129% increase for O1 petitions. Small employers and non-profits do receive some relief from the larger increases. Another interesting development is the reduction of the I-130 and N-400 filing fee increase for online filing, perhaps signaling a move towards this direction for the USCIS. Finally, the USCIS is no longer bundling Adjustment of Status fees, so applicants will have to again pay for individual applications such as Employment Authorization and Advance Parole with fees set at $650 and $630, respectively.
Some key increases of the most popular petitions and applications are listed below:
Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions
- The filing fee for H1Bs will increase to $780
- The filing fee for small employers and non-profits will remain at $460
- The filing fee for L1 Petitions will increase to $1,385
- The filing fee for L1 small employers and non-profits will increase to $695
- The filing fee for O1 Petitions will increase to $1,055
- The filing fee for O1 small employers and non-profits will increase to $530
- The filing fee for E and TN Petitions will increase to $1,015
- The filing fee for E and TN small employers and non-profits will increase to $510
Asylum Program Fee
This is a new fee that will be assessed on all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions to help cover the costs of asylum adjudications. This fee should also help free up SCOPS and FOD resources that have been diverted from EB adjudications to asylum adjudications.
- $600 for employers with 26 or more Full-Time Employees (FTEs)
- $300 for small employers (25 FTEs or less)
- $0 for nonprofit organizations
Immigrant Petitions and Adjustment of Status
- Petitions for Immigrant workers will increase to $715
- I-130 Petitions for Immediate Relatives filed online will increase to $625
- I-130 Petitions for Immediate Relatives filed via paper will increase to $675
- I-485 Applications for Adjustment of Status will increase to $1,440
- I-485 Applications for Adjustment of Status for minors will increase to $950
H1B Cap Registration Fee
The USCIS confirmed that prior to the H1B FY 2025 Cap season there will not be an increase in the Cap registration fee. However, next year’s cap will see a substantial increase from $10 to $215.
- Naturalization applications filed online will increase to $710
- Naturalization applications filed by paper will increase to $760
Premium Processing Fee Increase in February
The USCIS has implemented a fee increase for Premium Processing that will be effective at the end of February, increasing standard premium processing from $2500 to $2805.
Online filing of H1B Petitions
2024 marks a turning point in the USCIS’s processing of benefits with the implementation of online filing for H1B petitions. It’s a brave new world for employers and attorneys as we navigate the new H1B portal that will be added to the existing MyUSCIS service. Having attended a few of the training sessions provided by the USCIS, here are a few key takeaways on the new H1B processes:
- Organizational setup is very important for employers and law firms. Also, H1B cases get tied to their creators, so making a clear delineation of ownership via administrator is important.
- The system’s ability to create matters and input data appears quite powerful and intuitive. As with the implantation of the electronic cap system, the big question will revolve around stress testing and how the system will handle the days following the H1B Cap.
- Currently, there are no provisions for the online filing of H4 dependent applications. We asked the USCIS about that specifically and were told that “traditional filing still exists.”
- Building on the above point it is worth remembering that the traditional filing route does still exist and may be preferable for part of Q2 of FY2025 as the system works out any issues.
- All filing fees must be paid online via pay.gov with a credit card. Key consideration is to make sure that you have a card that is usable with pay.gov. Also, for larger employers, there is a per-day limit per card on pay.gov. It should be noted that the above fee increases will be live for cap-subject H1B filings, which could lead to a maximum credit card charge of $5,585 per H1B petition for premium-processed H1Bs with large employers.
With all of the above potential issues, what are the upsides? For a start, the oversight provision will be helpful for all parties. Also, it cannot be stressed enough that with the pressure of timelines on immigrants, the importance of being able to immediately file an H1B petition with complete evidence is huge. Further, the ease of responses to the government, in theory, will be improved as the system will allow for immediate online response to USCIS requests for evidence of NOIDs, etc. There is even the ability to upload evidence not traditionally required, which could allow for a record to be recreated should circumstances change for an H1B beneficiary during the pendency of their application.
H1B Visa Processing in the United States
The Department of State has announced a rollout of visa renewals for certain individuals in the United States in H1B status. Details are below. The program is technically active but is subject to high demand, with about 4,000 slots per week. The estimated processing time is six to eight weeks. The process is largely aimed at improving the visa process for Indian nationals.
The H1B visa renewal pilot program is open to applicants who currently possess an H-1B visa that was issued by the following specific consulates:
- U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in Canada between January 1, 2020 and April 1, 2023, or
- U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate in India between February 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021
To be eligible for participation in the program, the applicant must meet the following criteria:
- The applicant must be seeking to renew an existing H-1B visa.
- The applicant must be eligible for an in-person visa interview waiver.
- The applicant must have submitted ten fingerprints to the consulate with a previous visa application.
- The applicant must have an approved and unexpired H-1B petition.
- The applicant must have recently been admitted to the United States in H-1B status.
- The applicant must be currently maintaining H-1B status in the United States.
- The applicant’s period of authorized admission in H-1B status must not have expired.
- The applicant must intend to reenter the United States in H-1B status after a temporary period abroad.
Full details are here:
ABOUT MICHAEL FREESTONE
email@example.com | 240.507.1875
Michael J. Freestone is a Principal in the firm’s Immigration Law group where he advises individual and corporate clients of all sizes on a range of immigration-related issues. He specializes in strategic immigration planning with a focus on long-term strategies and develops robust immigration law compliance programs for his corporate clients. He handles non‐immigrant petitions, visa and consular issues, employment and family-based immigrant petitions, adjustment of status applications and naturalization.