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H-1B cap lottery results roll in with higher fees, new procedures

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The initial registration period for the

H-1B cap

season (for fiscal 2025) ended on March 25. Immigration attorneys state that lottery selection results are rolling in, including for the Masters’ cap.
The annual quota for

H-1B

cap visas is 85,000 (which includes 20,000 visas that are allotted under the Masters’ cap for those beneficiaries having advanced degrees from US universities).

All prospective petitioners (sponsoring employers) with selected beneficiaries will proceed, from April 1, to file H-1B cap-subject applications (petitions) for such beneficiaries.
Last April,

US Citizenship and Immigration Services

(USCIS) had received 7,58,994 eligible registrations for the H-1B cap season for the fiscal ending September 30, 2024. Of this number,

USCIS

selected 1,10,791 registrations to meet the annual quota of 85,000 (a larger number of applicants are picked as opposed to the quota, to account for denials during processing or revocations by sponsoring employers). However, on suspecting gaming of the system via multiple filings investigations were carried out. This resulted in a second lottery being conducted to fill in the annual quota.

USCIS has not yet provided information on how many registrations were submitted or selected this year.
For the first time, post a change in the lottery mechanism, all beneficiaries were entered into the lottery just once, based on their passport or travel document number, thus giving each beneficiary an equal chance in the lottery, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf. This new mechanism will bring down the number of eligible registrations, state immigration attorneys.

Sponsoring employers need to factor the points below as they embark on their next steps:

Higher fees:

Litigants to a suit filed challenging the fee hike, were not successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order against the imposition of higher fees. While the lawsuit filed by IT Serve Alliance (a group that represents over 2,000 small and medium sized IT companies many of whom have Indian origin founders); the American Immigrant Investor Alliance (a non-profit advocacy group for EB-5 investors), and a Canadian EB-5 investor continues the USCIS fee increase comes into effect from April 1.
The H-1B petition fee has increased to $780, from $460, a 70% increase. However, certain small employers and nonprofits will be subject to reduced fees. USCIS has stated: “All petitions marked on or after April 1, 2024, must include the updated fee amounts or they will not be accepted.”
In addition to increased base filing fees, employers hiring H-1B workers will be subject to a new

Asylum Program

fee of $ 600 ($300 for smaller companies and exemption for nonprofits) at the time of the initial application and also when sponsoring the employment-based

green card

.

Premium processing fees and time period:

Premium processing guarantees a response by USCIS within 15 ‘business’ days once the application has been received. Under the new fee rule, USCIS will extend the premium processing adjudication period from ‘calendar’ days to ‘business’ days. According to Fragomen, a global immigration law firm, “This change will effectively prolong premium processing adjudications by one week or more, depending on the case type.”
Further, in a separate regulation that took effect on Feb 26, 2024, USCIS increased fees for premium processing of Form I-129 (which is the application for a non-immigrant worker such as those on H-1B visas or L1 – intercompany transfer visas) by 12% to $2,805.
USCIS states: “If we receive a Form I-907 postmarked on or after Feb. 26, 2024, with the incorrect filing fee, we will reject the Form I-907 and return the filing fee. For filings sent by commercial courier (such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL), the postmark date is the date on the courier receipt.”
Fragomen explains, “Although the new premium processing fees took effect on February 26, the new, longer premium processing adjudicatory time frames will apply only to premium processing filings postmarked on or after April 1.”

Lockbox filing:

USCIS has stated that starting April 1, H-1B petitions must no longer be filed at the USCIS service centers. All paper-based H-1B petitions must be filed at USCIS lockbox locations. This includes cap, non-cap, and cap-exempt H-1B filings.
“If a petition is filed at the wrong location, we may reject the petition. Rejected petitions will not retain a filing date. If we reject a petition because it was filed at the wrong location, it may be refiled at the correct location, or online. H-1B cap subject petitions may be refiled at the correct location, or online, as long as the petition is refiled during the designated 90-day filing window listed on the selection notice,” states the immigration agency.
“We will reject H-1B or H-1B1 (HSC) petitions received at a USCIS service center on or after April 1, 2024. There will be no grace period provided,” adds USCIS.

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