Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog! It’s the start of a brand-new year and as always, we at the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, are committed to bringing you the latest in immigration news. We are happy for you to join us.
In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick shares his top predictions for U.S. immigration in the new year. In this blog post we cover the following topics: What will happen to visa processing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Will there be immigration reform in the new year? Will any new changes be made to the H-1B visa program? What about fee increases? Stay tuned to find out more.
What are some of our key immigration law predictions for the upcoming year?
Increase in Filing Fees for USCIS petitions and DOS Non-Immigrant Visa Fees
Our first prediction for the new year is an increase in filing fees at both the USCIS and Department of State levels, to help increase government resources during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As you might recall, back in October of 2020, USCIS attempted to increase its filing fees to meet its operational costs. Among the petitions that were to be the most impacted were N-400 applications for naturalization, L visa petitions, O visa petitions, and petitions for qualifying family members of U-1 nonimmigrants.
Fortunately, in September of 2020, a federal court struck down the planned USCIS increase in fees arguing that the new fee increases would adversely impact vulnerable and low-income applicants, especially those seeking humanitarian protections.
We believe that early in the new year USCIS will again publish a rule in the Federal Register seeking to increase its fees to help keep the agency afloat. USCIS previously insisted that the additional fees were necessary to increase the number of personnel at its facilities to meet the increasing demand for adjudication of certain types of petitions. It is no secret that USCIS has experienced severe revenue shortfalls since the start of the pandemic as more and more families found it difficult to afford filing fees. Once those details have been made public we will provide more information right here on our blog and on our YouTube channel.
For its part, the Department of State has already published a proposed rule in the Federal Register seeking to increase certain nonimmigrant visa processing fees, including fees for the following individuals starting in late February of 2022:
- those for business and tourist travel (B1/B2);
- students and exchange visitors (F, M, and J);
- crew and transit visas (C and D);
- representatives of foreign media (I), and
- other country-specific visa classes, as well as BCCs for applicants age 15 or older who are citizens of and resident in Mexico.
- categories for temporary workers and trainees (H);
- intracompany transferees (L);
- aliens of extraordinary ability (O);
- athletes, artists, and entertainers (P);
- international cultural exchange participants (Q);
- J visa waiver applicants
- religious workers (R); and
- E visa applicants including traders, investors, and employees.
Processing of Visas Steadily Speeding Up
Furthermore, in the new year, we predict that the processing of visas will steadily speed up. Over the coming months, we expect the Department of State to focus on increasing the operational capacity of U.S. Embassies and Consulates worldwide by bringing more personnel to handle the substantial workload that has been created due to the suspension of visa services in early 2020. We are also seeing that the Department of State is already taking new measures to help alleviate the backlogs by allowing Consular officials to use their discretionary power to waive in person interviews for certain visa applicants such as those seeking renewals of their visas with approved USCIS petitions.
We also expect USCIS to prioritize the adjudication of petitions that have been greatly impacted by processing delays at its Service Centers and Field Offices nationwide. USCIS has also taken important steps to streamline the immigration process for example by allowing dependent spouses of E, L, and H principal applicants to work in the United States incident to their status, without having to file Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization with the agency.
Increase in Premium Processing Services
For months it has been rumored that USCIS will expand premium processing services to additional categories of immigrants to streamline the immigration process and improve processing times during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that in the new year, USCIS will finally announce the expansion of premium processing services to cover other types of applications.
For those who are not familiar, premium processing service is a special type of fee-based service offered by USCIS that allows for expedited processing of certain Form I-129, Petitions for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petitions for Alien Worker. With this service, applicants can pay an additional fee along with Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to guarantee the adjudication of their applications within 15 calendar days.
Sadly, this service has only been available to the following individuals:
- Form I-129 requesting E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-3, L (including blanket L-1), O, P, Q, or TN nonimmigrant classification with $2,500 additional fee.
- Form I-129 requesting H-2B or R nonimmigrant classification with $1,500 additional fee.
- Form I-140 requesting EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 immigrant visa classification with additional $2,500 fee.
But that is all likely to change. New legislation has already proposed the expansion of premium processing service to apply to the following categories of individuals, although we are still eagerly waiting for USCIS to implement these changes:
- Form I-140 applicants requesting EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 petitions, with guaranteed processing of 15 calendar days with $2,500 additional fee;
- No more than $2,500 if you are filing Form I-140 requesting EB-1 Multinational Manager, Form I-140 EB-2 National Interest Waiver, and Form I-140 EB-2 Physician, with guaranteed processing of 45 days;
- Form I-129 Nonimmigrant Worker Petitions, with guaranteed processing of 15 calendar days with $2,500 additional fee;
- No more than $1,750 if you are filing Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status to F, J, or M, with guaranteed processing of 30 days
- No more than $1,750 if you are filing Form I-539 Change/Extension of Status for E, H, L, O, P, and R dependents with guaranteed processing of 30 days
- No more than $1,500 if you are filing Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, with guaranteed processing of 30 days.
At this time, these changes have not yet been implemented. As always, we will be the first to report on these new developments as they unfold right here on our blog.
H-1B Visa Program Changes
Additionally, we expect the announcement of new changes impacting the H-1B Visa Program in the new year.
The H-1B visa program allows American companies to employ foreign workers who possess a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, for a temporary period. To qualify, foreign workers must be employed in a specialty occupation related to their field of study. Foreign workers typically work in the STEM fields as scientists, engineers, computer programmers, however other professions may also qualify for example, fashion models are under the H-1B category.
Some of the expected changes to the H-1B visa program include new regulations governing the employer-employee relationship, establishment of new guidelines for employer site visits, clarifications on rules applying to F-1 international students seeking to change to H-1B visa status from within the United States, and other regulations governing the wage-level system of the H-1B visa program.
We hope that the Biden administration will also implement positive changes such as raising the H-1B visa cap, but as we enter the new H-1B visa season this is yet to be seen.
Immigration Reform May be Coming
Finally, we believe that comprehensive immigration reform may have a good chance of arriving in the new year. Immigration reform has been a hot topic for decades but for the first time in years, Democrats in Congress have renewed interest in finally reaching a compromise solution to legalize the millions of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers residing in the United States. Clever solutions are being proposed and talks will continue well into this year to gain traction in the United States Senate.
These are some of our top predictions in the new year. We hope that many of them will become true and that positive changes will finally arrive for those of you waiting in the long backlogs for a visa interview. We thank you for putting your trust in our office and look forward to serving you. For even more immigration news please check out our helpful links below.
Need Immigration Help? Contact Us Today. If you have any further questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.
- Immigration Update: Regulation to Expand USCIS Premium Processing Program Service
- DOS Proposed Rule to Raise Several Consular Service Fees including E Visas, B1/B2, J-1 Waivers, BCC, and More
- USCIS Increases Filing Fees for Certain Petitions to Stay Afloat
- Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Immigration Fee Increases
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- Department of State U.S. Visa News
- January 2022 Visa Bulletin
- NVC Contact Information
- Immigrant Visa Prioritization Schedule
- Law Offices of Jacob Sapochnick YouTube Channel
- NVC Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- List of Embassies and Consulates
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For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.