There have been a lot of changes to the CAP H-1B program over the last few years.  Most recent adjustment in the H-1B visa program, implemented by the Biden administration deals with increase in H-1B fees and registration criteria.  It has drawn attention from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Notably, concerns have been raised regarding the decision to increase H-1B registration fees.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has introduced two final rules aimed at refining the H-1B visa program, which facilitates the employment of foreign workers in specialized fields, alongside a revised fee structure.

Revised H-1B Visa Process: Fee Adjustments and Application Modifications

One of the rules entails a significant fee increase for H-1B account registration, marking it the first adjustment since the registration was first introduced in 2016. Effective April 1,2024, the registration fees will climb from $10 to $215. Additionally, the lottery process for the H-1B cap, set at 65,000 visas annually plus 20,000 for US master’s degree holders or higher, has undergone a major alteration.

The revised lottery system now prioritizes unique beneficiaries rather than the employers submitting applications. As part of a submission, each entry will have to include the beneficiary’s passport number and only one entry would be allowed per person,  USCIS states, it would ensure an equal chance of selection for each beneficiary and mitigates the risk of fraudulent practices involving multiple registrations for the same individual by different employers. These amendments will be applicable to the FY 2025 H-1B cap.

Fee Structure Modifications for H-1B Process

USCIS has also announced a Fee Schedule final rule, slated to take effect following the FY 2025 initial registration period. This rule encompasses fee increases for specific H-1B petitions and applications, introducing a new fee for H-1B registrations. The adjustments aim to cover processing and adjudication costs associated with the H-1B program.

Furthermore, fees for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas have been elevated to accommodate updated USCIS volume forecasts, particularly for the EB-5 workload. DHS has revised USCIS volume forecasts for H-1B registration workload, proposing an increase in fees from $10 to $215, with a $50 discount for online applications.

Transition to Electronic H-1B Process

USCIS will launch organizational accounts on February 28, 2024, enabling employers and their representatives to collaborate on H-1B registrations, petitions, and associated forms. Moreover, online filing options for Form I-129 and Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions will be available starting from the same date.  USCIS states that this digital services aim to streamline and enhance the efficiency of the H-1B process.

USCIS Director’s Perspective

USCIS Director highlighted that the new regulations and online services are poised to improve the H-1B program, fostering equity and transparency. He emphasized that these enhancements will promote fairness for both petitioners and beneficiaries, facilitating a fully electronic H-1B process from registration to final decision-making.