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Advancements in H-1B visa procedures for fiscal year 2025

Bolstering integrity and facilitating renewals
Posted: 2nd April 2024 09:32
The H-1B visa – a widely coveted nonimmigrant work visa, particularly beneficial for highly skilled foreign professionals, especially in STEM fields – is undergoing significant changes in its registration process for the Fiscal Year 2025 (FY2025). In response to concerns about widespread fraud and misuse, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented noteworthy adjustments to enhance the H-1B program's integrity and streamline the renewal process. In this article, Ashley Dworsky, managing partner at Dworsky Law in Illinois, provides an overview of the new H-1B registration process and the renewal pilot scheme.
H-1B registration process
On 2 February 2024, the DHS unveiled a final rule, soon to be published in the Federal Register, elucidating pivotal alterations to the H-1B registration process for FY2025.
Individual-centric selection:In a departure from previous years, the new system restricts each H-1B candidate to a single entry into the lottery, regardless of the number of employers submitting registrations on their behalf. This marks a significant shift from the past practice where multiple employers could amplify the odds of selection for the same foreign national.
Compulsory passport information:To address concerns about multiple entries for the same individual, employers are now mandated to provide passport or travel document information when registering H-1B candidates. Only one valid passport number may be entered per beneficiary, aligning with the passport they intend to use when applying for an H-1B visa and entering the U.S.
Flexible start dates:Unlike previous years where selected beneficiaries had a fixed 1 October start date, the new system allows employers to request any start date within the fiscal year, up to six months after the H-1B petition filing date.
Stable registration fees:Although the current $10 registration fee per beneficiary will remain unchanged for FY2025, the DHS has announced substantial fee increases in spring 2024, including raising the registration fee to $215 per registration.
Measures to enhance integrity:The new regulations are designed to augment integrity, fairness, and randomisation in the H-1B lottery process, addressing concerns related to abuse, fraud, and gaming of the system.
Renewal pilot program
In addition to the H-1B registration changes, on 15 December 2023, the U.S. Department of State introduced a stateside visa renewal pilot program, applicable solely to H-1B applicants.
Eligibility criteria:The pilot program, active from 29 January to 1 April 2024, targets individuals with H-1B visas issued by U.S. embassies or consulates in Canada (between 1 January 2020, and 1 April 2023) or India (between 1 February 2021, and 30 September 2021). Eligibility requires an in-person visa interview waiver, 10 fingerprints submitted previously, an approved and unexpired H-1B petition, and current maintenance of H-1B status in the U.S.
Application process:Applicants meeting the criteria can apply on the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website during specified weeks. The State Department estimates a processing time of six to eight weeks, concluding by 1 May 2024, with no expedited requests.
Limited parameters:The program's limited scope enables the State Department to assess its capacity for in-country visa renewals. Depending on its success, expansion may be considered in the future.
These changes to the H-1B visa registration process for FY2025 signify a commitment to maintaining the program's integrity and fairness. With enhanced measures and a pilot program for in-country renewals, the U.S. government aims to address longstanding concerns and streamline processes for highly skilled foreign professionals. It is imperative for employers considering sponsoring foreign national employees for the FY2025 H-1B cap to be well-informed about these changes and ensure compliance with the new regulations.

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