Potential Immigration Changes in 2019

 

The Trump administration’s future immigration intentions were recently announced in their semi-annual Unified Agenda. The Unified Agenda lists possible regulations under development by federal agencies for the coming year. The announcement indicates the administration’s plans to impose tighter restrictions on employment-based immigration benefits, such as the H-1B, H-4, and Optional Practical Training (OPT) for F-1 students.

The agenda specifies the administration’s intent to make the following policy changes in connection with Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order:

  • H-1B Eligibility: Redefining what a “specialty occupation” is for H-1B visa purposes to “increase the focus on truly obtaining the best and brightest.” The proposal would also “revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to better protect U.S. workers and wages.” This includes “additional requirements to ensure employers pay appropriate wages to H-1B visa holders.” The rule would also impose additional restrictions on H-1B dependent employers that rely on large H-1B workforces and those employers who have H-1B employees working off-site.

  • H-1B LotteryRevising the H-1B visa lottery system to establish an electronic pre-registration program for cap-subject H-1B applicants.

  • H-4 Work Authorization: Elimination of the regulation that allows H-4 visa holders (spouses of H-1B visa holders) to apply for work authorization. The Trump administration has already proposed a rule to remove this Obama rule which has provided work permits to thousands of H-4 spouses.

  • Fee Increases:  Increasing USCIS filing fees for employers and applicants filing for employment-based immigration benefits (including H-1B registration fees) and international students and U.S. universities.

  • Periods of Stay for F-1 Students: Limiting the maximum periods of stay for F-1 students and other nonimmigrants.

  • Adjustment of Status: Changing the process and procedures for foreign nationals to adjust from nonimmigrant status to lawful permanent resident status.

  • International Entrepreneur Rule:  Eliminating President Obama’s International Entrepreneur Rule which allowed qualifying foreign startups and entrepreneurs to apply for U.S. work authorization to grow their startup and create jobs.

These announcements do not currently modify or rescind any of the above mentioned immigration programs, and any changes to immigration policy can only be accomplished through notice and comment of proposed rulemaking in the federal register. This means that individuals and companies that may be affected by potential policy changes will have an opportunity to submit comments to the government before the policy becomes effective. 

As always, individuals and employers who may impacted by any of these potential changes should contact us with questions on how to best prepare.

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

USCIS has announced that starting April 3rd, 2017 premium processing for all H-1B petitions will be temporarily suspended. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able request premium processing for H-1B visa cases.

The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017.  Meaning, this will apply to ALL petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.

All H-1B petitions filed with a request for premium processing will be rejected.

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage.

The reason for the temporary suspension will allow USCIS to reduce overall H-1B processing times. 

Immigration Filing Fees Increasing

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has annouced that starting on December 23, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) filing fees for temporary visa petitions, family and employment-based visa petitions for lawful permanent residence (“Green Cards”), and applications for adjustment of status, naturalization, and waivers will increase.

The key employment-based petitions and applications that will see fee increases are as follows:

  • Petitions filed on behalf of non-immigrant workers, such as H-1B, L-1, O-1, E-2, P-1, TN, etc. (Form I-129): increase from $325 to $460.
  • Immigrant petitions filed on behalf of alien relatives (Form I-130): increase from $420 to $535.
  • Fiance(e) petitions (Form I-129F): increase from $340 to $535.
  • Immigrant petitions on behalf of alien workers (Form I-140): increase from $580 to $700.
  • Immigrant petition by alien entrepreneur under the EB-5 program (Form I-526): increase from $1,500 to $3,675.
  • Application for Regional Center Designation under the EB-5 program (Form I-924): increase from $6,230 to $17,795.
  • A new filing fee of $3,035 for the Form I-924A, which is used for applications under the EB-5 Regional Center program.
  • Application for adjustment of status (Form I-485): increase from $985 to $1140 (plus $85 biometrics fee).
  • Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (Form I-765): increase from $380 to $410.
  • Application for naturalization/U.S. Citizenship (Form N-400): increase from $595 to $640 (plus $85 biometrics fee), but USCIS will reduce the fee to $320 for certain applicants with low income. 
  • Application for a certificate of citizenship (Form N-600): increase from $600 to $1,170
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee for individuals entering the U.S. on immigrant visas issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad: increase from $165 to $220.

To view all of the USCIS filing fee increases, please visit https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees

Those wishing to apply for immigration benefits should therefore submit petitions and applications as soon as possible to take advantage of the current fees.  Employers should also take these changes into consideration when budgeting for the immigration costs of their employees.

Immigration Filing Fees to Increase

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a proposed rule to significantly increase immigration filing fees.  The new fees, which would likely be implemented on July 5, 2016, would raise fees for most employment-based petitions and applications by an average of 21%, though some filings would be raised even higher. 

The key employment-based petitions and applications that will see fee increases are as follows:

  • Petitions filed on behalf of non-immigrant workers, such as H-1B, L-1, O-1, E-2, P-1, TN, etc. (Form I-129): increase from $325 to $460.
  • Immigrant petitions filed on behalf of alien relatives (Form I-130): increase from $420 to $535.
  • Fiance(e) petitions (Form I-129F): increase from $340 to $535.
  • Immigrant petitions on behalf of alien workers (Form I-140): increase from $580 to $700.
  • Immigrant petition by alien entrepreneur under the EB-5 program (Form I-526): increase from $1,500 to $3,675.
  • Application for Regional Center Designation under the EB-5 program (Form I-924): increase from $6,230 to $17,795.
  • USCIS also seeks to requirea new filing fee of $3,035 for the Form I-924A, which is used for applications under the EB-5 Regional Center program.
  • Application for adjustment of status (Form I-485): increase from $985 to $1140 (plus $85 biometrics fee).
  • Application for Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (Form I-765): increase from $380 to $410.
  • Application for naturalization/U.S. Citizenship (Form N-400): increase from $595 to $640 (plus $85 biometrics fee), but USCIS will reduce the fee to $320 for certain applicants with low income. 
  • Application for a certificate of citizenship (Form N-600): increase from $600 to $1,170
  • USCIS Immigrant Fee for individuals entering the U.S. on immigrant visas issued by a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad: increase from $165 to $220.

Those wishing to apply for immigration benefits should therefore submit petitions and applications as soon as possible to take advantage of the current fees.  Employers should also take these changes into consideration when budgeting for the immigration costs of their employees.