As discussed in a prior post, USCIS began in March 2019 to require a new version of the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and introduced a biometrics fee and appointment requirement for each applicant. The Form I-539 has never been eligible for the government’s 15-day Premium Processing Service (PPS), but a particular subset of I-539 applicants — the dependents of principal nonimmigrants (e.g., the H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker) — have, until recently, benefited from “courtesy” PPS of the I-539 if it was filed with the principal’s own PPS’d application or petition.
In a stated attempt to reduce processing times on applications, USCIS announced on June 17, 2019, that it would be adjusting workloads for its field offices and that, as a result, some applicants may be scheduled for interviews outside of their geographic area. Generally, interviews for naturalization and permanent residency are scheduled based on the USCIS field office closest to an applicant’s residence. This change will particularly affect San Francisco Bay Area residents residing in the San Francisco Field Office jurisdiction, who may now be scheduled for interviews in Sacramento or San Jose.
On May 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of State added required questions about social media accounts or identifiers to the online nonimmigrant and immigrant visa application forms, the DS-160 and DS-260. This means that anyone applying for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa (a temporary visa) or a U.S. immigrant visa (permanent residence, a green card) must disclose all social media accounts used in the last five years. Social media presumably will be reviewed by U.S. Consular personnel in the course of visa adjudications.
USCIS resumed Premium Processing Service for all cap-subject H-1B petitions on June 10, 2019. The USCIS news alert is posted here and also mentions a temporary suspension of the use of pre-paid mailers for sending approval notices. Instead, final notices will be sent via regular U.S. mail.
Separately, the Department of Homeland Security published its proposed regulatory agenda which included a proposal to charge a fee for H-1B registrations filed under the electronic registration rule expected to to take effect for the upcoming “cap” season in Spring 2020. Further implementation details have not yet been released.
© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 5 that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory H-1B visa “regular cap” for fiscal year (FY) 2020. USCIS will next determine whether it has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as “the master’s cap.”
USCIS is expected to use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the “lottery”) for all FY 2020 cap-subject petitions received through April 5, 2019. This year, the agency will conduct the selection process for “regular cap” first, and the “master’s cap” second, as discussed in our prior blog posts. The exact day of the random selection process has not yet been announced.
© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019
Updated March 19, 2019:
On March 11, 2019, USCIS announced that it would resume Premium Processing Service for all H-1B petitions, effective on March 12, 2019. The USCIS news alert is posted here. Two days later, USCIS clarified via AILA liaison that H cap petitions were not covered by the March 11 announcement.
On February 15, 2019, USCIS announced that it would resume premium processing service (“PPS”) for H-1B cases filed on or before December 21, 2018. USCIS previously announced that it would also resume PPS for FY 2019 “cap” cases – i.e., those petitions filed in last year’s H-1B lottery that are not yet adjudicated.
On February 11, 2019, USCIS announced that, on March 11, 2019, it will release a new version of the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant status. The form is commonly used for dependents’ status extensions, among other applications. The form, when released, will have an immediate effective date of March 11, 2019, which means that any applications filed on or after that date must use the new form.
On January 30, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced a final rule effective April 1, 2019 that changes the way cap-subject H-1B petitions will be processed in two ways: first, petitioners seeking to file petitions will have to register electronically with USCIS during a designated registration period; and second, the order in which cap-subject petitions are selected in years when demand exceeds supply (i.e., when a lottery is required) has been reversed. We discussed these changes in depth when they were proposed, in our December 3, 2018 blog post.