Immigration Update

Jan 3, 2024 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, find the latest news on Increases to Premium Processing Fees, DOS’ Supplemental Questionnaire, updates to DOS’ Pilot Program, and more!

DHS Increases Premium Processing Fees

On February 26, 2024, the Department of Homeland Security will increase premium processing fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • From $1,500 to $1,685, for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for H-2B and R-1 nonimmigrant status, and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for certain F-1 students
  • From $1,750 to $1,965, for Form I-539. Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, for F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, J-2, E-1, E-2, E-3, L-2, H-4, O-3, P-4, and R-2 nonimmigrant status
  • From $2,500 to $2,805, for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, for employment-based classifications E11, E12, E21 (non-NIW), E31, E32, EW3, and recently available E13 and E21 (NIW)

A table in the final rule shows that overall, of those eligible for premium processing in fiscal years 2018 through 2022, 57 percent chose to submit a premium processing request:

If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after February 26, 2024, with the incorrect filing fee, it will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL), the postmark date is the date reflected on the courier receipt, USCIS said.

Details: 

  • USCIS alert (Dec. 27, 2023).
  • USCIS final rule, 88 Fed. Reg. 89539 (Dec. 28, 2023).

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DOS Proposes Supplemental Questionnaire for Passport Applications

The Department of State (DOS) has published a 60-day notice seeking public comment on a proposed supplemental questionnaire to an existing passport application that would solicit information relating to the respondent’s identity, including family and birth circumstances, that is needed before passport issuance. If such information on Form DS-5513 is needed, a passport agency will mail the form to the applicant for completion and return, or the applicant can download and complete a fillable PDF version.

DOS will accept comments until February 26, 2024.

Details: 

  • DOS notice, 88 Fed. Reg. 89002 (Dec. 26, 2023).

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State Dept. Announces Pilot Program to Resume Domestic H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Renewals

On December 21, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) announced a pilot program to resume domestic visa renewal for qualified H-1B nonimmigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements. The pilot program will accept applications from January 29 to April 1, 2024.

Participation in the pilot is limited to individuals who have previously submitted fingerprints in connection with an application for a prior non-diplomatic nonimmigrant H-1B visa, are eligible for a waiver of the in-person interview requirement, and meet other applicable requirements. DOS said the goal of the pilot is “to test the Department’s technical and operational ability to resume domestic visa renewals for specific nonimmigrant classifications and to assess the efficacy of this program in reducing worldwide visa wait times by shifting certain workloads from overseas posts to the United States.”

Applicants who meet the requirements can participate during the application window by applying online. Written comments and related materials must be received by midnight April 15, 2024.

Details: 

  • DOS notice, 88 Fed. Reg. 88467 (Dec. 21, 2023).

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OFLC Reminds Employers About Deadlines for Peak H-2A Filing Season

On December 22, 2023, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) reminded employers that the filing window to submit an H-2B Application for Temporary Employment Certification (Form ETA-9142B and appendices) requesting work start dates of April 1, 2024, or later will open on January 2, 2024.

OFLC said it will randomly order for processing all H-2B applications requesting a work start date of April 1, 2024, that are filed during the initial three calendar days (January 2-4, 2024). OFLC warned:

If OFLC identifies multiple applications that appear to have been filed for the same job opportunity, OFLC will issue a Notice of Deficiency. If multiple filings are submitted during the three-day filing window, all applications will receive a Notice of Deficiency requesting that the employer demonstrate that the job opportunities are not the same. Employers that fail to establish a bona fide need for each application will receive a non-acceptance denial for each application.

Details: 

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State Dept. Expands Consular Authority for Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waivers

On December 21, 2023, the Department of State (DOS) announced that it had consulted with the Department Homeland Security and determined that several categories of interview waivers are in the national interest. As of January 1, 2024, consular officers will have discretion to waive the in-person interview for:

  • First time H-2 visa applicants (temporary agricultural and nonagricultural workers) and
  • Other nonimmigrant visa applicants applying for any nonimmigrant visa classification who:
    1. Were previously issued a nonimmigrant visa in any classification, unless the only prior issued visa was a B visa; and
    2. Are applying within 48 months of their most recent nonimmigrant visa’s expiration date.

Consular officers may still require in-person interviews on a case-by-case basis or because of local conditions. DOS encourages applicants to check embassy and consulate websites.

Details: 

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