In this edition, find the latest news on the April Visa Bulletin, COVID-19 flexibilities, the H-1B electronic registration selection process, and more!
April Visa Bulletin Shows Worldwide EB-4 Backlog of 5+ Years, EB-2 Retrogression
DOS is no longer including a separate column covering applicants chargeable to El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras in the charts titled, “Final Action Dates for Employment-Based Preference Cases” and “Dates for Filing of Employment-Based Visa Applications,” for applicants who are seeking an immigrant visa in the EB-4 category. Final action and filing dates for applicants from these three countries are now provided in the column headed “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed.”
Previously, DOS was applying the per-country limit to the EB-4 subcategory, which made the “North Central American” (NCA) countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras oversubscribed, but preserved religious worker priority dates as “current” for all other chargeability areas. DOS has now announced that it interprets the limit to apply to the family/employment-based system as a whole and not within each category. In other words, because the NCA countries are not oversubscribed in the total family/employment system, DOS cannot set a cutoff for them separately within the EB-4 category.
EB-2 final action dates for the Rest of World, Mexico, and Philippines retrogressed to 01JUL22, and the EB-2 final action date for Indian applicants retrogressed to 01JAN11. “This situation will be continually monitored, and any necessary adjustments will be made accordingly,” the bulletin states.
- April 2023 Visa Bulletin, Dept. of State. https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/Bulletins/visabulletin_April2023.pdf
- Employment-Based Immigration: Fourth Preference EB-4, updated Mar. 22, 2023. https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/permanent-workers/employment-based-immigration-fourth-preference-eb-4
USCIS Ends Certain COVID-19 Flexibilities
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that certain flexibilities first introduced in March 2020 to address the COVID-19 pandemic ended on March 23, 2023. USCIS previously notified the public that barring any changes presented by the pandemic, the extension of these flexibilities announced on January 24, 2023, would be the last.
USCIS said it “retains discretion to provide certain flexibilities on a case-by-case basis upon request, for applicants or petitioners affected by an emergency or unforeseen circumstance, such as natural catastrophes (hurricanes, wildfires, severe weather, etc.), national emergencies (public health emergencies), or severe illness (including COVID).”
USCIS also noted that flexibilities regarding reproduced signatures first announced on March 20, 2020, became policy as announced on July 25, 2022.
- USCIS alert (Mar. 23, 2023). https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-announces-end-of-covid-related-flexibilities
- “Immigration Relief in Emergencies or Unforeseen Circumstances,” USCIS. https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/immigration-relief-in-emergencies-or-unforeseen-circumstances
H-1B Electronic Registration Selection Process Completed
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on March 27, 2023, that it has received enough electronic registrations during the initial registration period to reach the fiscal year (FY) 2024 H-1B numerical allocations (H-1B cap), including the advanced degree exemption (master’s cap). USCIS said it randomly selected registrations to reach the cap and has notified all prospective petitioners with selected registrations that they are eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for the beneficiary named in the registration.
H-1B cap-subject petitions for FY 2024, including petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption, may be filed with USCIS beginning April 1, 2023, if based on a valid, selected registration.
USCIS noted that an H-1B cap-subject petition must be properly filed at the correct USCIS service center and within the filing period indicated on the relevant registration selection notice. The period for filing the H-1B cap-subject petition is at least 90 days. Online filing is not currently available for H-1B petitions, so H-1B petitioners must continue filing by paper, the agency noted. Petitioners must include a printed copy of the applicable registration selection notice with the FY 2024 H-1B cap-subject petition.
- USCIS alert (Mar. 27, 2023). https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/fy-2024-h-1b-cap-season-updates
USCIS Removes 60-Day Rules for Civil Surgeon Signatures on Form I-693
On March 31, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced they are removing the requirement that civil surgeons sign Form I-693, Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, no more than 60 days before an individual applies for an underlying immigration benefit, including Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The requirement had been subject to a temporary waiver since December 9, 2021.
USCIS said that this policy update will allow it to adjudicate cases with immigration medical examinations that previously would have been considered invalid. Rather than issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) in the case of a Form I-693 signed more than 60 days before the filing of the I-485, but otherwise valid, USCIS can now accept I-693s for adjudicative purposes for up to two years after the date the civil surgeon signed the form.
- USCIS alert (Mar. 31, 2023). https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/alerts/uscis-removes-60-day-rule-for-civil-surgeon-signatures-on-form-i-693
CBP Issues Reminder About New EADs
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Carrier Liaison Program recently issued a reminder that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began producing redesigned employment authorization documents (EADs) on January 30, 2023. CBP said that the redesigned work permit cards will be issued concurrently with existing card stock until it is depleted.
All previously issued cards remain valid until their printed expiration dates, CBP said.
- CBP Liaison Program Message on New EAD Cards, American Immigration Lawyers Association. https://www.aila.org/infonet/cbp-liaison-program-message-on-new-ead-cards