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USCIS Announces Proposed Rule Changes to H-1B Process for FY 2025

In the ever-evolving landscape of global talent and workforce needs, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced a series of proposed changes to the H-1B visa program. These changes, aimed at modernizing the program and enhancing efficiency, are poised to bring significant transformations for both employers and skilled foreign workers. As we delve into these proposed alterations, it’s essential to understand their potential impact on the future of work and immigration in the U.S.

What You Should Know About USCIS’ Proposed H-1B Changes

The USCIS has proposed rule changes to the H-1B visa program aimed at enhancing its efficiency and alignment with the current job market needs. These changes include:

  • Efficiency Overhaul: Streamlined application processes and reduced bureaucratic hurdles to expedite visa adjudication, reflecting the need for adjudication consistency and efficiency.
  • Flexibility Enhancements: Proposals include easier job changes for H-1B holders, more flexible visa validity periods, removing burdensome itinerary requirements, and expanding cap-gap status and definition of cap-exempt employers.
  • Program Integrity Measures: Enhanced scrutiny and oversight to prevent abuses, with stricter compliance requirements for employers.
  • Balancing Efficiency and Safeguards: The need to balance efficiency improvements with program integrity, considering feedback from various stakeholders.
  • Benefits for Employers and Workers: The changes aim to benefit employers with talent shortages and skilled foreign workers by offering a more agile visa process, professional mobility, and potentially longer visa durations.

The proposed changes are a step towards modernizing U.S. immigration policies, addressing talent shortages, and promoting economic growth with a more inclusive and responsive H-1B program for both employers and foreign workers.

Why Is USCIS Proposing These Changes?

In the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 H-1B visa registration process, USCIS identified potential fraud involving the submission of multiple registrations for the same beneficiaries. There was a significant increase in H-1B registrations for FY 2024, with 780,884 registrations, up 61% from the previous year. Out of these, 758,994 were eligible, and USCIS selected 110,791 to fill the 85,000 available visa slots.

USCIS found that a large number of registrations (approximately 408,891) were for beneficiaries with multiple eligible registrations. This suggested that some companies and individuals might have conspired to submit multiple registrations for the same beneficiary, intending to increase their chances of selection unfairly.

USCIS has initiated extensive investigations into these practices, referring individuals or entities with false attestations to federal law enforcement for potential criminal prosecution. Registrations found to be part of this scheme are being deemed improperly submitted and are thus disqualified. This crackdown is part of USCIS’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of the H-1B visa program.

This incident has raised questions about the need for changes in the H-1B registration process to prevent similar fraud in the future. The changes proposed by USCIS to the application process are intended to address some of the biggest issues that may have led to this fraud. 

How Do Proposed Rule Changes Work Within USCIS

It is important to note that the changes are proposals, not final rules. They may still be altered or discarded entirely. Let’s review how proposed rule changes work for USCIS:

  • Drafting and Proposal: USCIS develops a draft of the proposed rule, considering policy objectives and legal requirements.
  • Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM): The draft rule is published as an NPRM, inviting public comment. This is a critical step for transparency and stakeholder involvement.
  • Public Comment Period: The NPRM enters a comment period, during which individuals, organizations, and other stakeholders can submit feedback and suggestions.
  • Review and Finalization: USCIS reviews the comments and may revise the rule accordingly.
  • Publication of Final Rule: The final rule is published in the Federal Register. It includes responses to major comments received during the public comment period.
  • Implementation: After publication, there is usually a waiting period before the rule takes effect, allowing affected parties time to comply.

This process ensures that rule changes are well-considered, legally sound, and reflective of stakeholder input. It also means that it will be months before USCIS announces any final rules for the next fiscal year, so it is not yet clear what the upcoming application season will entail.

Preparing for FY 2025 H-1B Applications

The H-1B season always arrives faster than you would expect. With registrations running from March 1-17, 2024, now is the time to start preparing your applications. While it is not yet confirmed what the rule changes will or will not bring, one thing is clear: skilled legal counsel will be required. At Litwin & Smith, we can help. We have decades of experience assisting people with successful employment immigration applications. Learn more about how we can support you during this period of transition in the H-1B program by scheduling your consultation today.

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