United States: Recent changes
to immigration law

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced a series of changes to the immigration rules and fees which may impact some applicants.

USCIS adjusts certain immigration and naturalization fees

On 30 January 2024, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule to adjust certain immigration and naturalization benefit request fees for the first time since 2016.

The new fees under the final rule will go into effect on 1 April 2024.

The final rule is the result of a comprehensive fee review, as required by law. The review concluded that the current fee schedule falls far short in recovering the full cost of agency operations, including the necessary expansion of humanitarian programs, federally mandated pay raises, additional staffing requirements, and other essential investments.

The final rule:

  • Lowers the agency’s required annual cost recovery by $727 million, in part by considering the budget effects of improved efficiency measures;
  • Expands fee exemptions for Special Immigrant Juveniles and victims of human trafficking, crime, and domestic violence; US military service members and Afghan allies; and families pursuing international adoption;
  • Provides special fee discounts for non-profit organizations and small business employers;
  • Allows for half-price Employment Authorization Document applications for applicants for adjustment of status and a reduced fee for adjustment of status applicants under the age of 14 in certain situations;
  • Expands eligibility for a 50% fee reduction for naturalization applications, available to individuals who can demonstrate household income between 150% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; and
  • Implements a standard $50 discount for online filers.

Every fee in the final rule is the same or lower than in the proposed rule. For most individual filers, the final rule limits how much newly established fees may increase. Under the final rule, the new fees will not increase by more than 26%, which is equivalent to the increase in the Consumer Price Index since the last fee rule was issued in 2016.

USCIS will accept both previous and new editions of certain forms during a grace period from 1 April 2024, until 3 June 2024.

There will be no grace period for the following new forms, however, because they must be revised with a new fee calculation. Filers should click the links below to access a preview version of each new form edition before the 1 April 2024, effective date:

USCIS will use the postmark date of a filing to determine which form version and fees are correct but will use the receipt date for purposes of any regulatory or statutory filing deadlines.

USCIS announces strengthened integrity measures, FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period and Online Filing of H-1B Petitions

On 30 January 2024, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule to strengthen the integrity of and reduce the potential for fraud in the H-1B registration process, including by reducing the potential for gaming the registration system so that each beneficiary has the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf.

USCIS has also announced the initial registration period dates for the fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap, and the launch of an online filing option for Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for H-1B petitioners.

H-1B Registration Final Rule:

Under the new beneficiary centric process, registrations will be selected by unique beneficiary rather than by registration. Starting with the FY 2025 initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary. The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the United States if issued an H-1B visa. Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document.

USCIS is also clarifying requirements regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap to permit filing with requested start dates that are after 1 October of the relevant fiscal year, consistent with current policy.

Additionally, the H-1B final rule codifies USCIS’ ability to deny or revoke H-1B petitions where the underlying registration contained a false attestation or was otherwise invalid. Also under the new rule, USCIS may deny or revoke the approval of an H-1B petition if it determines that the fee associated with the registration is declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid after submission.

USCIS has also announced the Fee Schedule final rule. That rule will go into effect after the initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap. Therefore, the registration fee during the registration period starting in March 2024, will remain $10.

A new edition of Form I-129 with the H-1B Registration final rule and Fee Schedule final rule changes will soon be available to preview on uscis.gov. From 1 April 2024, only the 04/01/24 edition of Form I-129 will be accepted.

The H-1B Registration final rule makes final some provisions proposed in the Oct. 23, 2023, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Note that DHS intends to publish a separate final rule to address the remaining provisions contained in the NPRM.

FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period:

The initial registration period for the FY 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern Time (ET) on 6 March 2024, and run until noon ET on 22 March 2024. During this period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, if applicable, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.

Organizational Accounts and Online Filing for Forms I-129 and I-907:

On 28 February 2024, USCIS will launch the previously announced new organizational accounts in the USCIS online account that will allow multiple people within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations, H-1B petitions, and any associated Form I-907.

Also on 28 February 2024, USCIS will launch online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions. On 1 April 2024, USCIS will begin accepting online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.

Petitioners will continue to have the option of filing a paper Form I-129 H-1B petition and any associated Form I-907 if they prefer. However, during the initial launch of organizational accounts, users will not be able to link paper-filed Forms I-129 and I-907 to their online accounts.

As a reminder, USCIS recently announced a final rule that will increase the filing fee for Form I-907, to adjust for inflation, effective 26 February 2024. If USCIS receives a Form I-907 postmarked on or after 26 February 2024, with the incorrect filing fee, it will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier, the postmark date is the date reflected on the courier receipt.

New Fee Payment Process for Filing In-Person

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is starting a new process for most applicants, petitioners, and 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. Applicants, petitioners, and requestors, and their attorneys and accredited representatives should carefully read the filing instructions to ensure that their benefit request form can be submitted by mail or remotely and that they are filing at the correct location. USCIS will return any incorrect filings to the applicant, who must then resubmit their filing to the correct office.

In addition, 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 Centre. Once such payment has processed, attorneys and accredited representatives must mail their client’s EOIR-29; their EOIR-2; 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. Applicants submitting Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, with an EAP request must still make an appointment with the USCIS Contact Centre, 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.

Support with US immigration

If you have any US immigration queries including which visa category is right for you, please contact the SSW global immigration team. Our team of immigration experts can provide full support with the visa application process and post–arrival assistance.

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