Immigration and Compliance Briefing: New Fiscal Year Brings New Fees, Forms, and Visa Bulletin
USCIS Fee Changes and New Forms
On October 2, 2020 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) new fee schedule will go into effect. Most immigration benefit requests will see a significant increase in fees (weighted average increase is 20%). Notably, USCIS implemented separate fees for each I-129 nonimmigrant visa category, moving away from a uniform fee for the I-129 form. While the fee for the H-2A and H-2B unnamed beneficiary categories will decrease, all other I-129 nonimmigrant work visa categories, including the H-1B and L-1, will see significant increases (the I-129F, the fiancé visa and only non-work visa using the Form I-129, will decrease). The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has published a table listing the new fees here. Lawsuits challenging the fee increases have been filed and additional litigation is anticipated.
USCIS is also publishing new forms, including multiple new I-129 forms for different nonimmigrant visa categories. Preview forms are available on the USCIS website.
Extended I-9 Compliance Flexibility
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced another extension of the temporary COVID-19 policy allowing flexibility in I-9 compliance for businesses operating completely remotely due to the pandemic. The temporary flexibility was initially announced in March and has now been extended for an additional 60 days, through November 14, 2020. See our prior client alert outlining related I-9 completion steps here. Guidance on how to obtain, remotely inspect, and retain copies of the identity and employment eligibility documents to complete Section 2 of Form I-9 is available on the USCIS website. Employers should monitor the DHS and ICE websites for additional updates and be mindful of the criteria to utilize the flexibility policy.
October 2020 Visa Bulletin Released
The much anticipated October 2020 Visa Bulletin was released by the Department of States to kick off Fiscal Year 2021. Each month the Visa Bulletin is updated based on the number of available immigrant visas in quota-subject categories and published online here. Due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, U.S. Consulate closures world-wide, and the correspondingly high number of unused visas from Fiscal Year 2020 ending on September 30, a significant number of visas are now available. This will primarily impact employment-based visas which saw fewer pandemic-related interruptions than family-based immigrant visa categories, and in particular Indian nationals in the third employment-based preference category (EB-3 for Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers, accounting for 28.6% of the worldwide level, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences, each of which also account for 28.6% of the worldwide level). Although there may be an increased supply of immigrant visas, it remains to be seen if this will equate to immigrant visas being issued in higher numbers given limited government processing capacity and continued consulate closures due to COVID, and the anticipated influx of even more applications.