By Felicia J. Persaud
News Americas, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Fri. Nov. 10, 2023: As we close the book on 2023, here are some of the latest updates from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, (USCIS), the US Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and the US State Department, that you should be aware of, especially if you are an immigrant.
H-2B Temporary Non-agricultural Worker Visas
On Nov. 2nd, the Department of Homeland Security, (DHS), and the Department of Labor (DOL), announced that it will make an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker visas available for Fiscal Year 2024, on top of the congressionally mandated 66,000 H-2B visas that are available each fiscal year.
American businesses in industries such as hospitality and tourism, landscaping, seafood processing, and more turn to seasonal or other temporary workers in the H-2B program to help them meet demand from consumers. The supplemental visa allocation will help address the need for seasonal or other temporary workers in areas where too few U.S. workers are available. Additional details on the H-2B program safeguards, as well as eligibility and filing requirements, will be available in the temporary final rule when published on the USCIS webpage, uscis.gov.
Automatic Employment Extensions
Certain renewal applicants who have filed Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, now qualify for an automatic extension of their expiring employment authorization and/or Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) while their renewal application is pending, USCIS says. As of Oct. 27th, those who are eligible will receive 180-day extensions in accordance with existing regulations, including those who have applied for or have received Temporary Protected Status or asylum.
EB-5 Processing Times
Immigrant investors in regional center programs have seen a decrease in EB-5 processing times. Reports indicate that projects have received approvals for Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor within only 12 months. To improve efficacy for EB-5 investors in rural areas, the USCIS provided priority processing of their petitions. This included Form I-526E and Form I-829, Petition by Investor to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status. Though progress appeared unlikely in the months immediately following, recent application turnaround times suggest priority processing is a likely solution for reducing EB-5 backlogs.
US-based investors can also file for I-526E concurrently with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This allows them to immediately adjust their status and apply for an EAD and travel permit. This increased flexibility furthers improvements to the EB-5 process.
Sole Proprietors And Immigration Filing
On October 20, 2023, the USCIS issued policy guidance to clarify that a sole proprietorship may not file a petition on behalf of its owner. USCIS makes this distinction because a sole proprietor does not exist as a distinct legal entity separate and apart from the owner. This clarification aligns with existing guidance and becomes effective immediately.
The Policy Manual update further distinguishes a sole proprietor from a self-incorporated petitioner – such as a corporation or a limited liability company with a single owner, where the corporation or the single member limited liability company is a separate and distinct legal entity from its owner, which may petition for that owner.
On October 2, 2023, the U.S. Department of State (DOS), provided updates on passport processing timelines and demand. Between October 2022 and September 2023 – the federal fiscal year – DOS issued more than 24 million passport books and cards, the most ever in U.S history.
In light of increasing passport application processing times, DOS encourages all Americans to check their passport expiration date before making plans for international travel and renew their passport well in advance of international travel.
Processing times have changed several times in 2023. As of October 2, 2023, DOS has been processing routine applications in 8-11 weeks, and expedited applications in 5-7 weeks. Processing times begin when the application is received at a passport agency or center. Processing does not include mailing times. Mailing time may take up to 2 weeks for DOS to receive an application as well as for the processed passport to be delivered to the applicant.
As they take steps to improve this process, DOS advises customers to check the status of their passport application online and sign up for updates via email.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.com, the Black Immigrant Daily News.