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USCIS Announces Significant Changes To H-1B Application Process

office-3295556_640-300x182With the H-1B cap season in full swing, the Trump administration continues make a number of policy updates and changes that will substantially affect this year’s H-1B processing flow and, in particular, the family members of migrant workers applying for H-1B visas.

H-1B Processing Will Begin with “General” Pool Before “Master’s”

U.S. employers can fill positions by sponsoring H-1B visa applications with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of foreign workers who meet the requirements of these roles.  Only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued every fiscal year with an additional 20,000 slots specifically allotted to migrant workers with graduate degrees (or their equivalent) acquired from institutions in the United States. These limitations, known as the “cap,” are set by Congress.

This year will see a change to the order by which H-1B applicants are chosen. Traditionally, applicants were chosen from the 20,000 cases in the master’s degree pool first before proceeding with the remaining 65,000.

USCIS has decided to reverse the order, taking “winners” from the 65,000 first before moving on to the 20,000 especially allotted to graduate degree holders. The agency claims that this change, which U.S. employers welcome, was designed to increase the number of higher-degree holders among the migrant workers entering the country through the H-1B.

Employers may start sending in their H-1B applications on April 1 every year; approved applications take effect on October 1. USCIS runs a random lottery selection system in early April to decide which cases may proceed to further processing.

Applying H-1B Dependents Must Use New Versions of Forms and Undergo Biometric Screening

Another H-1B applicants should prepare for this year is the mandatory use of the new forms for H-4 applications. USCIS published updated versions of the forms for applying H-1B dependents. Beginning March 11, 2019, all H-4 applicants are required to use the new forms I-539 and submit an I-539A supplement for every additional applicant including their children. Any submitted obsolete versions of these forms will not be honored by the agency.

USCIS is also requiring every family member to attend a biometric screening appointment, costing each applicant $85 in service fees. On top of the additional fees, the additional time needed to provide the government with fingerprints, photographs, and iris scans is also expected to delay the application process for H-4 dependents.

If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or need assistance with your visa application, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.