USCIS Announces Major Changes to H-1B Filing Process Starting April 1, 2024

In a significant development, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced substantial changes to the filing process for H-1B Specialty Occupation Worker and H-1B1 (HSC) Free Trade Agreement Worker petitions, effective April 1, 2024. These modifications aim to streamline and modernize the application process, incorporating online filing options and transitioning away from traditional paper submissions.

Key Changes:

  1. End of Paper Filings for Certain H-1B Categories:
    • From April 1, 2024, USCIS service centers will no longer accept Form I-129 petitions for H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers or H-1B1 (HSC) Free Trade Agreement Workers in a specialty occupation from Chile and Singapore.
    • All paper-filed Form I-129 petitions requesting H-1B1 (HSC) or H-1B classification, including those with a concurrent Form I-907 (Premium Processing Service) and those with concurrently filed Form I-539 and/or Form I-765, must be submitted at a USCIS lockbox facility.
  2. Introduction of Online Filing for H-1B Petitions:
    • Starting March, USCIS will launch online filing for Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for non-cap H-1B petitions.
    • On April 1, online filing will be extended to H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for petitioners whose registrations have been selected.
  3. Rejection of Paper Filings after April 1, 2024:
    • USCIS will reject any paper-filed H-1B or H-1B1 (HSC) petitions received at service centers on or after April 1, 2024, with no grace period provided.
    • Due to systems limitations, USCIS service centers will be unable to process the new versions of Form I-129 for H-1B and H-1B1 classification from the previously announced H-1B Final Rule published on Feb. 2, 2024, or the Fee Final Rule taking effect on April 1st.
  4. Lockbox Transition and Staffing Constraints:
    • USCIS service centers face limitations in accommodating the increased filing for the H-1B cap season due to planned lockbox transition.
    • Temporary staffing shortages at service centers further necessitate the transition away from paper filings.
  5. Forthcoming Information on Lockbox Filing Addresses:
    • USCIS will release lockbox filing addresses for paper-filed forms in late March through web alerts and the Form I-129 Direct Filing Addresses page.

These changes mark a significant shift in the H-1B filing landscape, emphasizing the USCIS’s commitment to efficiency, modernization, and enhanced user experience. As stakeholders prepare for the upcoming H-1B filing season, staying informed about these changes and participating in USCIS engagement opportunities will be crucial for a smooth transition to the new filing procedures.

Reference: Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker | USCIS