U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published final rules increasing the fees for many immigration and benefit-related services and transforming the H-1B cap registration process to be used starting with the FY 2025 cap period.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a series of final rules and announcements increasing the fees for many U.S. immigration and benefit-related services, including most of the ones used by employers, and transforming the H-1B cap registration process in advance of the FY 2025 cap season. Additionally, USCIS shared the timeline for the FY 2025 H-1B cap season, announced revised forms (I-129 and I-140) that will go into effect on 1 April 2024, and announced the launch date for its new H-1B online organizational accounts platform.
U.S. Immigration and Benefits Services Fee Increases
USCIS published in the Federal Register on 31 January the long-awaited fee increases impacting a variety immigration and benefit-related services. The new fee schedule outlined in the rule will go into effect on 1 April 2024 and will impact filings postmarked on or after that date.
The new fees will result in significant increases impacting a range of employment-based services commonly used by employers. Key fees changes that will impact employers include:
|H-1B Nonimmigrant Registration
|$215 (currently $10)
|H-1B Nonimmigrant Petition
|$780 (currently $460)
|L-1 Nonimmigrant Petition
|$1,385 (currently $460)
|O-1 Nonimmigrant Petition
|$1,055 (currently $460)
|I-140 Immigrant Petition
|$715 (currently $700)
|I 485 Adjustment of Status Petition
|$1,440 (currently $1,225)
In addition, the final rule also implements a new structure for Asylum Program Fees. USCIS will charge a $600 fee for each Form I-129 and Form I-140 petition on top of the increased base filing fee. Nonprofit organizations will be exempt from the per petition fee, and small employers (with 25 or fewer full-time employees) will only pay $300 per petition. USCIS adapted the reduced asylum fee for nonprofits and small employers based on public feedback.
The fees in the final rule largely align with what USCIS included in its proposed rule released last year that WERC, along with numerous other organizations, submitted comments to the agency on. However, some changes, including lowering the fee increase for I-485 Adjustment of Status petitions, were made by the agency to the fee schedule based on public comments.
For H-1B cap registrations, the fee increases will not go into effect until after the registration period for FY 2025 closes on 22 March, which means employers will pay the current fee amount of $10 for FY 2025 cap registrations.
Additionally, the final rule implements two major changes that will impact employers. These are:
1. Premium Processing Timeline: The final rule will change USCIS’s processing timeline for premium processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days. USCIS indicated that this change, which was also included in the proposed rule, is necessary to “allow USCIS adequate time to take adjudicative actions on petitions” and to “… provide petitioners with a consistent and predictable experience.”
USCIS previously published a separate final rule on 28 December 2023 that will increase a range of premium processing fees effective 26 February 2024. Key premium processing fee changes include:
|I-140 Immigrant Petition
|$2,805 (currently $2,500)
|I-129 Nonimmigrant Petition (General)
|$2,805 (currently $2,500)
|I-129 Nonimmigrant Petition (H-2B and R-1 Statuses)
|$1,685 (currently $1,500)
|I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
|$1,965 (currently $1,750)
|I-765 Application for Employment Authorization
|$1,685 (currently $1,500)
Changes in the premium processing timeline will be effective for requests postmarked on or after 26 February 2024 to align the shift with the fee increases listed above.
2. New Forms: USCIS is also revising the Form I-129 and I-140 and has stated that the new version will be required for any Form I-129 or I-140 filings postmarked on or after April 1
Changes to the H-1B Registration Process
On 2 February 2024, USCIS will publish in the Federal Register a final rule that will overhaul the H-1B Registration process in advance of the FY 2025 cap season.
Key elements included in the final rule include:
Transition to a Beneficiary-Centric Registration Process: USCIS will transform the H-1B cap registration process from its current registration-centric model to a beneficiary-centric model.
This change is designed to address the issue of multiple registrations per individual, which, in the FY 2024 cap registration period, resulted in 52% of the 758,994 eligible registrations being for individuals with multiple registrations.
Under the new process, lottery selections will be made per each unique beneficiary as determined by their valid passport or travel document number used on the registration. Beneficiaries will be required to register using the passport or travel document that they intend to use to travel to the United States. Beneficiaries will be prohibited from submitting registrations using differing passport or travel document numbers, and petitions could be denied or revoked if it is determined that there is a change on the passport or travel document information from what is listed on the registration.
Each beneficiary will only be entered into the H-1B registration selection lottery once, regardless of how many registrations are submitted on their behalf. If a beneficiary is selected, all employer registrants that submitted a registration on behalf of the individual will be notified, and each employer registrant will have the ability to submit a petition to USCIS on behalf of the beneficiary.
Start Date Flexibility for Certain Cap-Subject Petitions: The rule codifies current USCIS practice in allowing petitions to request start dates occurring after 1 October of the applicable fiscal year.
Expanded Authority for Denying or Revoking H-1B Petitions: The rule codifies USCIS’s authority to revoke or deny in a range of circumstances, including:
- Cases where registrations included false statements or were otherwise invalid, registration fees were invalid, or a petition was not based on a valid registration.
- Cases where statements on a petition, registration, Labor Condition Application (LCA), and/or Temporary Labor Certification (TLC) were “inaccurate, fraudulent, or misrepresented a material fact, including if the attestation on the H-1B attestations are determined to be false.”
The provisions in this final rule were part of the proposed rule on H-1B Modernization released by USCIS in October 2023, to which WERC along with numerous other organizations submitted comments on. It was anticipated that USCIS would break up the H-1B Modernization rule to allow registration-related changes to be implemented ahead of the upcoming cap period, and other provisions related to H-1B Modernization are still being reviewed by USCIS and no timeline has been provided on when additional rules covering these areas may be expected.
Timeline for FY 2025 H-1B Cap Registration Process: USCIS announced that the FY 2025 H-1B Cap Registration period will run from 6 March at noon ET to 22 March at noon ET. As noted above, the fee for FY 2025 cap registrations filed during this will remain at the current fee of $10 per registration.
Timeline for New Online Organizational Accounts: USCIS shared that access to the recently announced online organizational account platform for preparing and submitting H-1B registrations, H-1B petitions, and premium processing requests will be accessible starting on 28 February at noon ET. Although access will be available starting 28 February, registrations for the FY 2025 cap season will not be able to be submitted until the window opens on 6 March.
Considerations for talent mobility professionals: The changes announced by USCIS will have significant budget and operational impacts for employers and the mobility professionals that support the movement of their global talent.
“Now that USCIS will be able to cover its costs, businesses are going to expect USCIS to be able to reach the goals it has set to reduce processing times on their applications. If processing times do not go down under the increased fees, frustrations from businesses will intensify,” said Kelli J. Duehning, WERC Immigration Policy Forum member and partner at BAL. Duehning added: “We hope the change to a beneficiary-centric lottery selection process will see increased selection rates for employers, which is welcome news.”
WERC and its Immigration Policy Forum will continue to monitor the implementation of these changes and will provide updates as applicable.
Michael T. Jackson is vice president of member engagement and public policy at WERC.
This article also includes input from leaders and members of WERC’s Immigration Public Policy Forum.