December 18, 2019

Immigration Insights for the End of the Year

Changes to 2020 H-1B Cap Filings

As reported in prior Immigration Insiders, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced changes to the H-1B lottery, aimed at making the process more efficient for both employers and USCIS. These changes will be implemented for 2020 H-1B cap filings. The new regulations require employers to submit an electronic pre-registration between March 1 and
March 20 and pay a $10 fee in order to sponsor an employee for H-1B status. The electronic pre-registration will require submission of basic information, such as the name, address, and FEIN of the employer and the beneficiary’s biographic details and education. Should USCIS receive more electronic pre-registrations than there are H-1Bs available, a lottery will be conducted. If selected in the lottery, employers will be given a window of time during which the complete H-1B filing must be submitted. While USCIS has confirmed that its internal testing is complete on the new system, the website is not accessible. Given the quickly approaching deadline, and the remaining uncertainty about the process, it is critical that you contact Kerr Russell as soon as possible regarding any anticipated H-1B lottery filings.

Filing Fees to Increase

USCIS has announced plans to increase filing fees for most petition types. As a fee-funded organization, USCIS is required to conduct biennial reviews to ensure that the agency is properly funded to meet adjudication demands. USCIS points out that the new fee schedule reflects a “weighted average increase of 21%.” This, however, does not reflect the significant increase in fees for particular filings. For example, TN filings through the Service Center currently have a fee of $460. Under the new schedule, the fee will be $705. The current fee for an L-1 filing is also $460, which will be raised to $815. Most notably, naturalization applications, with a current fee of $640, will now be $1170 – an increase of 83%!

In addition to increasing fees, USCIS also announced a plan to change Premium Processing from 15 calendar days to 15 business days, which could delay the hiring process for employers. We note that the Premium Processing fee recently rose from $1410 to $1440. Comments to the proposed fee schedule will be accepted until December 30, 2019. Kerr Russell will continue to provide updates as the implementation process continues.

Increase in STEM OPT On-Site Visits

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has increased site visits to employers that employ STEM OPT students. The visits are aimed at ensuring that STEM OPT students receive structured work-based learning experience, as required by the program. ICE will provide an employer with at least 48 hours notice in advance of the visit, unless the visit is due to a complaint or allegations of noncompliance with the program. While on-site, the Officer may speak to the STEM OPT student, the student’s supervisor, and/or the employer representative to confirm the accuracy of information presented in the OPT application. In addition to site visits, ICE has indicated that it may also contact employers by phone or email to ensure compliance with the program.

Employers should be prepared for government visits, which can be conducted for numerous reasons. According to the most recent ICE statistics, the agency launched 6,848 work-site investigations in fiscal year 2018, compared to 1,691 in 2017. In fiscal year 2018, there were 5,981 I-9 audits, compared to 1,360 in FY 2017. Should ICE, Department of Homeland Security, or any other government agency visit your workplace, please contact Kerr Russell immediately.

Meet the Immigration and Nationality Law team:

Kate M. McCarrollKate M. McCarroll of Kerr Russell has extensive experience in employment-related immigration law, including inbound/outbound immigration, Department of Labor/ Department of Homeland Security audits and I-9 compliance training. Kate has also handled matters involving asylum proceedings,family-based immigration, and criminal and inadmissibility issues.



Miroslava Orduño Rincón has extensive employment-related experience concerning U.S. non-immigrant and immigrant petitions for large international clients. She also processes outbound visitor and work visas, family-based petitions, and naturalization.




Robert S. AndersonClose Up - Robert S. Anderson of Kerr Russell experience in employment-based immigration and the representation in obtaining authorization for employees to work in the United States. counsels and represents clients in the full spectrum of immigration legal issues as applied to their workforces and staff, including all aspects of the international movement of personnel for local, national, and international companies.



Other posts to consider: