LawQuest | US Immigration Alert | USCIS Announces Registration Dates for the H-1B CAP Season FY 2024

USCIS Announces Registration Dates for the H-1B CAP Season FY 2024

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on January 27, 2023 that the initial period for FY 2024 H-1B cap registration will open at 12 noon EST on March 1, 2023, and run through 12 noon EST on March 17, 2023. Employers seeking to engage foreign nationals on H-1B visas must complete registrations online.  In addition, it is important to note the following:

  • Petitioners or their representatives must submit registrations via a myUSCIS online account and pay a $10 filing fee for each registration.
  • Employers will not be able to submit registrations after the March 17 deadline. There is no advantage to filing the registrations at the beginning of the registration period but later the system might be overloaded with last-minute registrations.  So, it is best to be prepared to submit the registrations soon after it opens on March 1, 2023.
  • After the registration period, the USCIS will conduct a random lottery if there are more registrations than available visas. Annual H-1B caps continue to be set at 65,000 visas plus an additional quota of 20,000 for individuals with advanced U.S. degree holders.
  • Petitioners will be given a 90-day period beginning April 1, 2023, to file full H-1B petitions for candidates that were selected in the random, post-registration selection.

In the last fiscal year, the USCIS received 484,927 H-1B registrations, the highest in history. We expect that the demand for H-1B visas will continue to be high this cap season, despite the layoffs and signs of an economic slowdown in the U.S.

Please contact Manizeh Mistry at [email protected] or [email protected] if you have questions about the registration process or need assistance with your H-1B CAP selections and/or preparation.

 

LawQuest | US Immigration Alerts | Additional NI Visa Appointments for First Time Applicants, USCIS implementation of Prem Proc Final Stage & Adjudication of I-539 & I-765 applications together

The US Embassy and Consulates in India Introduce More Visa Appointments

There is finally some good news for visa applicants seeking a visa for the first time or those that do not qualify for Dropbox applications.   The United States Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad (collectively known as Mission India) will now be open for regular consular (including visa) operations on certain Saturdays to accommodate applicants who need in-person visa interviews.  These additional working days are likely to run through the next few months.

Additionally, to address the significant post-pandemic backlog in visa processing Mission India has also implemented the following and we are seeing reduced wait times as a result:

  • Remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas.
  • Temporary Consular Officers from Washington and other Embassies to arrive in India to increase processing capacity between January and March 2023.
  • Increasing the number of Consular Officers permanently assigned to the Embassy and Consulates in India.
  • Released more than 250,000 additional B1/B2 appointments and continue to open more slots in the coming few months.
  • U.S. Consulate, Mumbai also extended its weekday operating hours to manage additional appointments.

By this summer, the U.S. Mission in India is expected to be fully staffed and processing visas at levels from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will result in a huge relief for visa applicants who have been waiting for several months for visa appointments.  We continue to monitor the situation and will provide further updates as they become available.

USCIS Extends Premium Processing to Additional Categories

The USCIS extends premium processing for newly filed applications under EB-1 and EB-2 petitions. In the earlier phase, this service was only available to already filed I-140 petitions for managers and executives or for those filed for members of Professions holding an Advanced Degree or an Alien of Exceptional Ability. This new phase will come into effect on January 30, 2023.

Further, premium processing will shortly be extended to certain F-1 seeking OPT and STEM OPT extensions and for those applicants who file I-539 Application to Extend/Change their non-immigrant status. This will most likely go into effect in February 2023 after the USCIS makes its final announcement.

Adjudication of L-2 and H-4 Spouse/Dependent Applications Along with the Primary Beneficiary’s Petition

On Friday January 20, 2023, the U.S. government signed off on a settlement of a lawsuit, agreeing to again adjudicate I-539 (extension or change of status applications) and I-765 (work authorization) for H-4 and L-2 dependents, together with the primary beneficiary’s I-129 when these forms are filed together.  It is important to note that if the forms are not filed together, the USCIS is not required to adjudicate them together. This arrangement will take effect on January 25, 2023 and will greatly benefit new applicants, especially when the primary beneficiary’s I-129 petition is filed for premium processing.

 

LawQuest | Indian Immigration Alert | Indian e-Visas Reinstated for Canadian Nationals

Indian e-Visas Reinstated for Canadian Nationals!

After two weeks of resuming the electronic visa or e-Visa facility for UK Nationals, India has now reinstated this facility for Canadian nationals as well. Canada is now a part of the list of eligible countries on the e-Visa portal.

This was announced by the High Commission of India in Ottawa, and is effective from December 20, 2022, (See https://www.hciottawa.gov.in/newsevent?id=477).

The High Commission of India further announced that “All pending visa applications submitted through the BLS Centres in Canada will be processed on priority. Those applicants who wish to withdraw their respective visa applications may do so by visiting the website https://www.blsindia-canada.com/ and choosing the option for Application Withdrawal.”

It further added “Those who have booked appointments to apply for tourist, business, medical or conference visa at BLS Centres in Canada and would, now, like to apply for eVisa instead, are requested to vacate/cancel their appointment slots so that the same becomes available to others seeking visa/consular services.”

The reinstatement of the e-Visa facility will help clear the backlog for visa application appointments which has been a huge impediment for Canadian nationals, especially for those wishing to travel to India for tourism and/or business.

LawQuest | Indian Immigration Alert | e-Visa Services Finally Restored for British Nationals!!

e-Visa Services Finally Restored for British Nationals!!

On December 5, 2022, the High Commission of India in London announced that the e-Visa facility will be restored for the UK nationals travelling to India.  The Indian High Commissioner, Vikram K Doraiswami in his official announcement has confirmed this (see https://www.facebook.com/IndiaInUK/videos).

For the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, India has resumed the e-Visa facility for the UK nationals for whom the lack of e-Visas and the backlogged visa application appointments have been huge impediments.

The United Kingdom has been reinstated on the list on countries eligible for e-Visas on the India e-Visa portal at: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html.

The reinstatement of e-Visas is a significant step forward in eliminating barriers for the UK nationals wishing to visit India for tourism and/or business. This in turn will also help strengthen the Indo-UK relationships and the tourism industry.

 

LawQuest | US Immigration Alert | Geared Up for the Upcoming H-1B Cap Season FY 2024?

Geared Up for the Upcoming H-1B Cap Season FY 2024?

A crucial time of the year is approaching for all those companies looking to sponsor foreign nationals to work in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. For the past three years, the USCIS has been using an online electronic registration and selection system to conduct the H-1B “lottery” if there are more registrations than H-1B visa numbers.

Set out below is a brief description of the process flow and how companies should be prepared for the upcoming cap season.

Registration Process

The electronic registration period on myUSCIS is likely to begin in the first week of March 2023, and U.S. Petitioners/Attorney Representatives will have not more than 2 to 3 weeks to register their potential beneficiaries for the FY2024 H-1B Cap lottery.  Hence, it is important for employers to begin their applicant screening process by December 2022/January 2023 if they have not done so already to allow enough time to gather the required details.

U.S. Petitioners applying for the first time will be required to create an H-1B Registrant account on the myUSCIS website before the registration period begins.

We expect that the process for the upcoming cap season will remain unchanged unless the USCIS announces any modifications in the ensuing months. As in past years, and in view of the continuing shortage of talent in the U.S., we expect that the USCIS will have to run a lottery after the pre-registration process this year as in the last several years. However, the USCIS has the discretion to suspend the registration process at any time if it determines that the registration process is inoperable for any reason.

Deferred registrations may remain pending in the system for the rest of the applicable fiscal year (or until the CAP is reached) in the event that the USCIS needs to select additional registrations, sometime between July and November as they have done on occasion in the past.

H-1B lottery

After the registration period is completed the USCIS will conduct a lottery which is a randomized process. The USCIS will then electronically notify the U.S. Petitioner/Sponsor/Attorney Representatives of these selections by end of March 2023.

H-1B Petition and Visa

After the results of the lottery are out, U.S. Petitioners will have a period of 90 days starting from April 1st to submit H-1B petitions for the selected registrants along with the relevant forms, filing fee, LCA and other supporting documents. The USCIS will then adjudicate the petitions and inform the petitioners/beneficiaries of their decision.

Those petitions that get approved may then proceed to apply for their H-1B visas with a U.S. Consulate and commence working in the U.S. from October 1st onwards or any date thereafter.

Key Takeaways

  • Companies should begin collating a list of employees who they wish to shortlist for an H-1B visa in order to be employed in the U.S. by the end of the year of 2023.
  • Once the prospective candidates have been shortlisted, companies should accumulate necessary information and documents to ensure that the candidates meet the basic requirements which will make them eligible for an H-1B visa to make the registration process easier and faster.
  • Companies should validate certain important basic documents of shortlisted applicants, for e.g. in cases where the applicant’s passport is about to expire within a period of 6 months, the passport must be renewed before the registration period or shortly thereafter.
  • Companies applying for H-1Bs for the first time must complete certain registrations (FEIN and VIBE) before they are ready to file H-1B petitions. Since the DOL is usually swamped with a number of petitioners applying for an LCA, it is common for delays to take place which is why it is imperative to initiate the FEIN registration process with the DOL promptly.
  • LCAs currently take 7 days to be certified. As we get ready to file the H-1B petition, the number of LCAs filed with the DOL is only going to increase, leading to possible delays in LCA approvals.
  • Companies who miss registering its employees during the pre-registration period that will most likely begin in March 2023, there may be no further H-1B visas for FY 2024 and the earliest you could initiate a new H-1B case would be in March 2024 for an employment start date of October 1, 2024.

 

 

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