As we move deeper into the new year, the U.S. government continues to try to resolve the challenges facing the immigration system due to the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting processing backlogs. These challenges may still continue, but new changes and updates have already taken effect—and more will likely come in 2023, impacting employers and the decisions they make with regard to their foreign national employees. Below are several updates the U.S. government has already released that impact employment-based immigration processes.
USCIS Proposed Fee Increases
On January 4, 2023, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed changes to its fees for certain types of cases. The changes to the fees are dramatic increases to some employment-based visa types and are in an effort to make up for funding shortages that have impacted USCIS. Proposed filing fee increases for the following employment-based visa types include:
- H-1B: $460 to $780
- H-1B registration fee: $10 to $215
- L-1: $460 to $1,385
- O-1: $460 to $1,055
- Adjustment of Status Application (I-485): $1,225 to $2,820
As we previously reported, the proposed rule—which is in the public comment phase—also includes a change to the existing premium processing timeline. The timeline would increase from fifteen calendar days to fifteen business days.
Continued Expansion of Premium Processing
On May 24, 2022, USCIS implemented a phased approach to expanded premium processing service. In 2022, premium processing was expanded to I-140 petitions, and on January 30, 2023, premium processing will be available to all EB-1C multinational executive and manager and EB-2 National Interest Waiver petitions. The January 30 expansion will include new filings as well as upgrades on pending petitions.
USCIS’s next phase of premium processing expansion will apply to the following applications:
- Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
Foreign National Employees and RIFs
With changes in the U.S. economy and world markets, employers may start conducting reductions in force (RIF) to adjust to new budget goals. RIFs have the potential to impact foreign national employees. As we discussed in a recent podcast, employers may want to consider the potential impact of restructurings on workers who are in nonimmigrant status, those who are in the permanent residency process, and students working in F-1 status.
Equal Pay Transparency Laws
An increasing number of states and local jurisdictions—such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, New York State, New York City, Rhode Island, and Washington—have implemented equal pay transparency (EPT) laws that now require employers to make additional disclosures regarding offered salaries and/or benefits on job requisitions and postings. This will have a significant impact on the PERM process for green card applications in these jurisdictions by mandating employers list a salary or salary range on PERM and non-PERM recruitment materials. EPT laws vary across jurisdictions as to which types of postings or recruitment efforts will require additional information.
Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waivers Extended Until December 31, 2023
In an effort to reduce visa wait times and processing backlogs at U.S. consulates, the U.S. Department of State has extended the authority of consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant categories through December 31, 2023.
Fiscal Year 2024 H-1B Cap Preparation
With the annual H-1B lottery just two months away, employers may want to consider the foreign national employees they plan to sponsor and enter into this year’s upcoming H-1B cap or quota process. The process will start with the initial registration period, which typically opens at the beginning of March and lasts for a minimum of fourteen calendar days each fiscal year (FY). USCIS will soon announce details about the FY 2024 H-1B registration period. If enough registrations are submitted, USCIS will conduct a random selection of the registration entries to determine who will be eligible to file H-1B petitions. If selected, the employers will have ninety days to file the H-1B petitions, starting April 1. So far, there have not been any changes in this process for this upcoming cycle.