Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Immigrant visas in the United States just became quicker for many temporary migrants in the US and others, including those on H1B visa and L1 visa categories, as changes have been made expanding the number of employment based immigrant categories where premium processing is available. The bad news is that in many cases the USCIS (part of the Department of Homeland Security) premium processing fee increases from $1,440 to $2,500 from 19 October 2020. On April 22nd, the Trump administration put a halt to processing for certain temporary visa and green card categories for immigrants outside the US, claiming that this would safeguard jobs for Americans. This of course brought much distress to visa holders, especially for those applying for entry from outside the United States.
On October 1st, the U.S Senate passed BIll - HR8337, allowing the United States Citizenship Immigration Service (USCIS) to process more visa categories under premium processing. L1 visa, E2 visa, H1B visa holders and others currently wait up to six months waiting for employment authorisation applications to be processed, while not being able to commence work during that time.
Increase in USCIS premium processing fee for H1B/L1 visas and others from 19 October 2020
The new ruling allows the USCIS to substantially increase the premium processing fee for H1B and L1 visas and others. Applicants who opt for the premium processing service can expect a wait time of about 15 days. H1B and L1 Visa fees for premium processing and for many other visa categories are increasing from $1,440 to $2,500, while visa fees for the standard wait time remain the same. However, this latest bill is separate from the initial ruling of increased visa fees on October 2nd, which was blocked by a US Federal Court shortly afterwards.
It is said that the increase in premium processing fee will be of great benefit to the USCIS as higher fees will enable the service to stay operational. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they have needed a bailout to stay afloat as their income for visa fees have dropped significantly.
H1B visa and L1 visa pathway to Green Card status
H1B and L1 visa holders and others who have applied for an immigrant visa using form I140 (immigrant applicants for Alien Workers), can now file form I485 (Adjustment of Status) if form I-140 application was approved before 1st January 2015. Once employment authorisation is granted, this allows applicants to commence employment, pending approval of I485 adjustment of status application.
Also, EAD (Employment Authorization Document) are to be issued by USCIS for non-citizens of the U.S, allowing the applicants to work temporarily. Those on H1B extensions are also allowed to change employers and secure an EAD.
As President Trump put a stop to green card application processing from outside the US, claiming that this would safeguard jobs for American workers, this resulted in roughly 226,000 EB visas being available, hence speeding up the processing times for other applicants. The premium processing service has also been added to an increased number of green card categories, including EB1 for multinational executives and managers, EB3 (Professional and Skilled Workers) and EB2 (Advanced Degrees) applicants so reducing expected wait times.
Please see the 5 US green card employment based immigrant categories below:
EB4 for Religious Workers and Special Immigrants
US Visas challenges going into 2021
It's unclear how this pandemic will affect current visa holders in the U.S for 2021 with the elections right around the corner. Both the Democrats and Republicans may take similar approaches when it comes to border protection so next year could be challenging, depending on how this pandemic plays out as migration policies could change just as rapidly as the waves of Covid-19.
workpermit.com monitors every situation closely, giving you a clear and informative update during these uncertain tim
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