More Than 483,000 Applicants Registered for March 2022 H-1 Lottery - Record Competition for This Year's Quota-Subject H-1 Work Visas
In mid-April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had initially selected the 127,600 registrations projected as needed to reach the FY 2023 85,000 numerical limit on new quota-subject H-1's. In 2021, USCIS conducted two additional rounds of selected registrations in July 2021 and November 2021. Additional selection rounds are also possible later this year. Some selected H-1 registrants every year fail to complete the H-1 process due to withdrawn applications, denials by USCIS adjudications officers and for other reasons. For unsuccessful H-1 lottery participants, many other work visa options are available for qualified candidates. (Read sidebar, "Where Can You Go When The H-1 Quota Says No?")
USCIS Issues New Rule to Expand Availability of Extra Fast "Premium Processing"
On March 30, 2022, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a new Final Rule expanding "Premium Processing" eligibility to include additional categories of immigration applications. Currently, certain I-129 Temporary Work Visa Petitions and certain I-140 Permanent Immigrant Visa categories are eligible for "Premium Processing". "Premium Processing" enables petitioners (usually employers) to dramatically speed up adjudication for visa petitions from 3-6 months or longer to 15 days or less by payment of a $2,500 Premium Processing fee.
New categories of applications and petitions to become eligible for Premium Processing include: (1) Additional Form I-140 categories - EB-1 Multinational Executives and Managers and EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability Seeking a National Interest Waiver, (2) Form I-539 (Change of Status) Application for F-1, J-1 and M-1 students and exchange visitors, and (3) certain Form I-765 Applicants for Employment Authorization. The new categories are expected to be phased in over a period of several months.
New Guidance Memorandum Directs Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Lawyers to Reduce Civil Immigration Court 1.7 million Case Backlog by Administratively Closing Low-Priority Cases. New Enforcement Focus is National Security, Border Security and Public Safety Threats.
On April 3, 2022, the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor (OPLA) to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a new 17-page Guidance Memorandum directing that all OPLA attorneys should give highest priority to prosecuting Civil Immigration Law Cases that involve Priority A - Threat to National Security, Priority B - Threat to Public Safety or Priority C - Threat to Border Security.
Cases that are not high priority should be considered for administrative closure so that scarce prosecution and court enforcement resources can be focused on top priorities. It is estimated that more than 700,000 cases now pending in the U.S. immigration court system may be eligible to be administratively closed under the new policy guidance. Overall, there are more than 1.7 million cases currently in the U.S. immigration court backlog.