The political atmosphere of the United States has led immigration policies to change significantly over the past decade. This has made it difficult for many employers to keep track of their rights and responsibilities when attempting to sponsor foreign nationals for employment-based visas in the United States.
This year, there are several guaranteed and proposed changes to immigration policies that could affect all employment-based visas nationwide. Business owners should be aware of the new 2023 regulations and policies and what these new changes may mean for their organization and employees.
Extended Visa Interview Waivers
One of the most important updates for 2023 is an extension for visa interview waivers. The U.S. Department of State has opted to permit consular officers to continue waiving nonimmigrant visa interviews through the end of the year, a practice initiated in December 2021 to reduce visa wait times and backlogs at U.S. consulates worldwide.
This is good news for employers hoping to bring workers from populous countries like India and China. Scheduling a visa interview can significantly delay the process of getting the employee to the U.S. H-1B visa interview waivers allow you to bring your employee of choice over without the delays caused by overwhelmed consulates.
Expansion of Premium Processing
In May 2022, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency first implemented a program to expand premium processing for many visa types. Premium processing provides individuals with expedited processing of various immigration forms, including applications for employment authorization, immigrant petitions for alien workers, and petitions for a nonimmigrant worker. Individuals pay a premium fee to speed up the lengthy USCIS process.
In March 2023, USCIS began phasing in additional forms that are elligible for premium processing, now including all EB-1C and EB-2 petitions. By the end of the phased introduction, applications for employment authorization and applications to extend or change nonimmigrant status will also be eligible for premium processing.
These expansions allow employers and foreign nationals with pressing immigration needs to expedite the process. However, it is important to note that premium processing for employment visas comes at a premium price, so it is still best to get started on visa petitions early when possible.
Growth of Equal Pay Transparency Laws
On a state and local level, many jurisdictions have begun implementing equal pay transparency (EPT) laws, and more are expected to follow. These laws require employers to provide salary ranges on all program electronic review management (PERM) and non-PERM job postings and other recruiting materials. The PERM process is fundamental to applying for a green card, so pay transparency laws could significantly affect how employers sponsor their employees for green card status.
While EPTs have not spread to the federal level or Florida in particular, they have taken effect in other major locations like California, New York, and Colorado. Multistate employers operating in Florida may already be held to these requirements. Meanwhile, employers who only operate out of Florida should watch how EPTs affect immigration processes carefully.
Possible Fee Increases
Among the potential changes to employment visas is a proposed increase in the fees charged by USCIS. The agency is responding to international inflation by proposing significant hikes to the standard rates for visa-related petitions of all types, including employment-related ones. These proposed increases include:
- H-1B: Increasing by $320, from $460 to $780
- H-1B registration fee: Increasing by $205, from $10 to $215
- Adjustment of Status Application (I-485): Increasing by $1595, from $1,225 to $2,820
- L-1: Increasing by $875, from $460 to $1,385
- O-1: Increasing by $595, from$460 to $1,055
While these increased prices are not yet approved, if they are, they will likely go into effect in the next year. Employers should consider these prices when planning to sponsor employees for visas in the future.
Prepare for Changing Visa Laws With Expert Legal Counsel
The current administration appears to focus strongly on immigration reform, so employment and H-1B visa changes will likely continue. If you are preparing to sponsor a candidate for an employment-based visa, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced business immigration attorney. At EPGD Business Law, our skilled associates have experience in both commercial and immigration law, allowing them to provide expert legal counsel to employers sponsoring their workers for visas. Learn more about how we can streamline the sponsoring process by scheduling your consultation today.