Immigration Update

Feb 1, 2024 | Immigration Updates

In this edition, find the latest news on DOS’ latest H-1B Guidance, DHS TPS and Student Relief, USCIS’ “Extraordinary Circumstances” and much more!

DOS Provides Guidance, FAQs on Domestic Renewal of H-1B Visas for Certain Applicants

The Department of State (DOS) has released guidance and frequently asked questions on its new pilot program to resume domestic visa renewals for qualified H-1B nonimmigrant visa applicants who meet certain requirements. The pilot program will accept applications from January 29, 2024, through April 1, 2024, or when all 20,000 application slots are filled, whichever comes first.

DOS said it will make available a maximum of 20,000 application slots during this pilot program. Approximately 2,000 per week will be for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by U.S. Mission Canada with an issuance date of January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023, and approximately 2,000 per week will be for applicants whose most recent H-1B visa was issued by U.S. Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.

Participation in the pilot program is voluntary. DOS said that individuals who do not meet the requirements for participation in the pilot program, or those who choose not to participate in the pilot program, may continue to apply for visa renewal at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.

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DHS Extends and Redesignates Syria for TPS, Announces Student Relief

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending and redesignating Syria for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

DHS also announced Special Student Relief for F-1 nonimmigrant students from Syria. DHS said this will enable eligible students to request employment authorization, work an increased number of hours while school is in session, and reduce their course loads while continuing to maintain F-1 status through the TPS designation period.

Below are highlights of the extension and redesignation.

Extension. TPS will be extended for Syria for 18 months, beginning on April 1, 2024, and ending on September 30, 2025. DHS said this extension allows existing TPS beneficiaries to retain TPS through September 30, 2025, if they otherwise continue to meet the eligibility requirements for TPS. Existing TPS beneficiaries who wish to extend their status through September 30, 2025, must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period, which will begin on the date the notice is published in the Federal Register (expected to be January 29, 2024), and run for 60 days.

Redesignation. DHS is also redesignating Syria for TPS. The agency explained that the redesignation allows additional Syrian nationals (and individuals having no nationality who last habitually resided in Syria) who have been continuously residing in the United States since January 25, 2024, to apply for TPS for the first time during the initial registration period, which will begin on the date the notice is published in the Federal Register (expected to be January 29, 2024), and will remain in effect through September 30, 2025. In addition to demonstrating continuous residence in the United States since January 25, 2024, and meeting other eligibility criteria, initial applicants for TPS under this designation must demonstrate that they have been continuously physically present in the United States since April 1, 2024.

DHS said, “It is important for re-registrants to timely re-register during the re-registration period and not to wait until their Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) expire, as delaying reregistration could result in gaps in their employment authorization documentation.”

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USCIS May Excuse Untimely Filed Extension of Stay and Change of Status Requests Under ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’

On January 24, 2024, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) updated its policy guidance to provide that USCIS, “in our discretion and under certain conditions, may excuse a nonimmigrant’s failure to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner.”

USCIS said that extraordinary circumstances may include, for example, work slowdowns or stoppages involving a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute, or the inability to obtain a certified labor condition application or temporary labor certification due to a lapse in government funding supporting those certifications.

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USCIS Releases Additional Details About Organizational Accounts

During a public engagement session, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiled additional details about its launch of organizational accounts in February 2024, in time for non-cap filings and the fiscal year 2025 H-1B cap season. USCIS noted:

  • A company can designate representatives who will have the authority to review, sign on behalf of the company, and pay (if necessary) the filing fees associated with submissions. Those designated individuals will be deemed as the “Administrators” for the company and will need to either create their own USCIS accounts or leverage their existing ones if they have served as company representatives for H-1B cap registration purposes.
  • For companies, Administrators will have a wide range of account management capabilities, from creating working Groups, inviting other Administrators, Legal Representative Teams, or regular working Group Members to collaborate on projects within the created corporate Group. Administrators are also the only account holders authorized to review, sign, and submit filings on behalf of the organization.

The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) recommends that companies contact their ABIL attorney for advice and help with the new platform.

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USCIS Announces New Process for Paying for Certain Benefit Requests by Mail or Remotely

On January 26, 2024, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a new process for most applicants, petitioners, requestors, and their attorneys and accredited representatives to pay for certain benefit request forms by mail or remotely instead of in person at a field office. Under the new process, applicants may mail either a check or Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions, to the field office with their benefit request.

In addition, USCIS said, attorneys and accredited representatives now can process payments for EOIR-29, Notice of Appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals from a Decision of a DHS Officer, through a link in the email they receive or via text from the USCIS Contact Center. Once such a payment has been processed, attorneys and accredited representatives must mail their client’s EOIR-29; their EOIR-27, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative Before the Board of Immigration Appeals; and their Pay.gov receipt to the field office.

An exception to the new process is emergency advance parole (EAP) requests, USCIS said. Applicants submitting Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with an EAP request must still make an appointment with the USCIS Contact Center, apply in person with their package (completed form and supporting documentation), and pay the application fee (if applicable) by credit card with Form G-1450 or check at the field office.

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