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Navigating the US Immigration Landscape: The Year in Review


Klug Law Firm, Spotlight New York, New York
KLF, Chambers Spotlight, 2024

Introduction


As we reflect on the events that shaped the US immigration landscape in 2023, this year brought very significant updates and challenges for employers and foreign nationals. From changes in H-1B cap registration to premium processing expansions and updates in the Visa Bulletin, let's delve into the key highlights of the year.


H-1B Cap Registration for FY 2024


In March 2023, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the opening of the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2024 H-1B cap. Running from March 1st to March 17th, this period allowed employers to submit H-1B lottery registrations for prospective employees. The USCIS initiated the lottery process after the registration period closed, projecting an increased demand compared to previous years.


Prospective petitioners and registrants were advised to create H-1B registrant online accounts starting February 21st, ensuring they did not attempt to do so before the designated time to avoid complications. The USCIS conducted the lottery and notified selected registrants through March 31st. Selected registrants had from April 1st to June 30th to file H-1B petitions and related Labor Condition Applications.


With the anticipation of reaching the H-1B cap for FY24, employers were required to pay a $10 registration fee for each employee. To facilitate financial transactions, the U.S. Department of Treasury temporarily increased the daily credit card transaction limit for the FY 2024 H-1B cap season.


Premium Processing Expansion for F-1 OPT, STEM OPT


In a move to enhance efficiency and reduce burdens in the immigration system, USCIS announced the expansion of premium processing on March 6th, 2023. This extension covered certain F-1 students seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization or STEM OPT extensions.

Key dates for premium processing requests were outlined, allowing for smoother processing for specific categories, such as pre-completion OPT, post-completion OPT, and 24-month extension of OPT for STEM students. The phased approach aimed to streamline the processing of applications and reduce overall processing times.


Visa Bulletin Updates for October 2023


The Visa Bulletin updates for October 2023 played a crucial role in shaping opportunities for employment-based immigration. Notable changes included advancements in cutoff dates for various employment-based preference categories. These changes impacted individuals from countries such as China and India, providing a nuanced perspective for individuals navigating the immigration process.

Form I-9 Update & Remote Employee Verification


Employers faced an important deadline on November 1, 2023, regarding the revised Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification. The updated form allowed eligible employers to remotely verify employment eligibility, a significant shift aimed at enhancing the overall customer experience. Employers enrolled in E-verify were granted the ability to remotely examine identity and employment authorization documents, simplifying the document verification process.


Preparing for U.S. Government Shutdown


With the potential threat of a U.S. government shutdown in November 2023, various agencies provided guidance on potential impacts on immigration processes. The Department of Labor (DOL) highlighted potential disruptions to the FLAG system used for PERM Labor Certification filings, while USCIS assured the acceptance of late I-129 filings under specific circumstances during a government shutdown. Essential personnel and essential activities were outlined to ensure continued operations in the event of a shutdown.


Conclusion


The year 2023 brought forth a dynamic landscape for US Immigration, with changes in H-1B cap procedures, premium processing expansions, Visa Bulletin updates, Form I-9 revisions, and considerations for a potential government shutdown. As we conclude this year, stakeholders in the immigration process remain vigilant, adapting to evolving policies and regulations to ensure a smooth and compliant immigration experience.


If you would like to know more about the highlights of 2023 click here.





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