Changes in H-1B Visa Filing Procedures and FY 2025 Updates

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently announced significant updates regarding the processing of H-1B visa petitions, aiming to streamline procedures and enhance efficiency for both applicants and USCIS staff. Here’s a breakdown of the key changes and reminders outlined in the announcement.

Closure of Initial Registration Period

The initial registration period for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap season concluded on March 25, 2024. Now, what comes next? 

The USCIS will soon conduct random selections of beneficiaries from properly submitted registrations to fulfill the FY 2025 H-1B numerical allocations. Selected beneficiaries will receive notifications, indicating their eligibility to file an H-1B cap-subject petition.

New Filing Location for Form I-129

Starting April 1, 2024, the USCIS will no longer accept paper-based H-1B and H-1B1 (HSC) Form I-129 petitions at service centers. Instead, these petitions must be filed at USCIS lockbox locations. This change applies to all H-1B filings, including cap, non-cap, and cap-exempt petitions. Failure to adhere to this change will result in the rejection of petitions, with no grace period provided.

Fee Adjustments and Form Edition

The USCIS has adjusted the fees for most immigration applications and petitions, effective April 1, 2024. Petitions postmarked on or after April 1, 2024 must include the new fees or the USCIS will not accept them. Additionally, there will be a new edition of Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, effective April 1, 2024. There will be no grace period given for filing the new version of the form with the new fee calculation. 

What Else You Need to Know About Sending Your Form 1-129

  • The USCIS will accept the 05/31/2023 edition of this form if it is postmarked before April 1st 2024
  • The USCIS will not accept the 05/31/2023 edition of this form if it is postmarked on or after April 1st 2024
  • The USCIS will only accept the 04/01/2024 edition of this form if it is postmarked on or after April 1st 2024

There is a preview version of the 04/01/2024 edition of the Form 1-129 and its instructions

The USCIS will use the postmark date of a filing to determine which form version and fees apply to the application. However, it will use the received date to determine which regulatory or statutory filing deadlines apply. 

In a previous blog, we discussed the announcement made by the USCIS which increased the filing for Form 1-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, to adjust for inflation. Since the effective date of the new fees was February 26, 2024, any Form 1-907 postmarked on or after February 26, 2024 with the incorrect filing fee will be rejected and the filing fee will be refunded. 

Transition to Online Filing

On February 28, 2024, the USCIS introduced new online organizational accounts, enabling multiple individuals within an organization and their legal representatives to collaborate on and prepare H-1B registrations, H-1B petitions, and any associated Form I-907. Information about organizational accounts can be found on the Organizational Accounts Frequently Asked Questions page.

Furthermore, the USCIS launched online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions on March 25, 2024. Beginning April 1, 2024, the USCIS will accept online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.

While petitioners still have the option to file a paper Form I-129 H-1B petition and any associated Form I-907 if preferred, it’s important to note that during the initial rollout of organizational accounts, users will be unable to link paper-filed Forms I-129 and I-907 to their online accounts.

Discontinuation of Prepaid Mailers

As of March 25, 2024, the USCIS has ceased the use of prepaid mailers for any communication or final notices related to H-1B or H-1B1 (HSC) petitions. With H-1B intake now centralized at lockbox locations or online, the use of prepaid mailers is no longer viable. The USCIS has implemented automated processes for printing and mailing H-1B petition approval notices, ensuring timely notifications to applicants.

All these updates are in effort to improve and streamline the H-1B visa processing system, ultimately benefiting applicants, employers, and USCIS staff alike. While these changes may introduce some adjustments for stakeholders, they are expected to contribute to a more efficient and transparent immigration process in the long run.