As published in the Immigration Daily on March 7, 2023

Predictions On Number of H-1B Registration Applications.

The FY-2024 cap H-1B registration process is in full swing with application dates from noontime EST March 1, 2023 –noontime EST March 17, 2023. Happy St. Patty’s day! Does anyone have a good estimate as to how many applications will be submitted? Our guess is – not as many as last year’s 483,927, which was an all-time record. The downturn in the high-tech industry may lessen the numbers this year. In looking at FY-2022 statistics provided in the recently released National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) report, “H-1B Petitions and Denial Rates In FY-2022”, the top initial H-1B recipient companies were Amazon, Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant, Google, Meta/Facebook, HCL America, and IBM. A sampling of articles giving predictions seems to favor the idea that the number will be less, but not that much less. One cited the 257,000 job cuts in the tech industry since last year, but also the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that the overall tech unemployment rate fell to 1.5% in January, which is notably low. Another cited the BLS survey of the 1.5% unemployment rate in computer and mathematical occupations along with an 1.7% rate in architecture and engineering occupations as evidence of high demand for people with technical skills, but also noted that even if H-1B registrations plummeted by 50%, the agency would still receive nearly 3 times as many registrations as petitions that could be issued due to the 85,000 yearly cap. And two others predicted up to 500,000 and between 550,000-600,000 requests for H-1B registration would be made.

The total number is given in April, and we will see how the predictions fared.

CSPA Vis-À-Vis USCIS Adjustment Chart.

A huge development in The Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) is USCIS’s re-interpretation of the date on which a child’s priority date is reached for freezing age before turning 21 and he/she then no longer being able to immigrate as a child. USCIS announced a policy on February 14, 2023 that it would henceforth use the “dates for filing” chart of the monthly visa bulletin to finally fix the child’s age. Prior policy had been to use the “final action date” to determine whether the child was under the age of 21. In the past, a child would be able to file an I-485 under “dates for filing”, but if he/she turned 21 before the “final action date” opened, the case would be denied. Although there is no adjustment of status in cases being consular processed, the same rule should now apply for cases being interviewed overseas as the Attorney General (including DHS and its USCIS component) and not the Secretary of State determines the law in the field of immigration.

In determining when an age is “frozen”, the applicant must read two charts, the Department of State visa bulletin’s “dates for filing” one, and the USCIS monthly adjustment chart designating which of the Department’s two charts will be used for accepting adjustment of status applications. The USCIS Policy Manual instructs that, “The date USCIS considers a visa available for accepting and processing an adjustment of status application according to the USCIS website and the Visa Bulletin is also the date USCIS considers a visa available for CSPA purposes if the petition is already approved.… Applicants cannot rely on the DOS Visa Bulletin alone because the Visa Bulletin merely publishes both charts; it does not state which chart can be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application. The DOS Visa Bulletin contains a clear warning to applicants to consult with the USCIS website for guidance on whether to use the Dates for Filing chart or Final Action Dates chart.”

This policy change applies to pending applications, with the guidance also saying that noncitizens can file a motion to reopen a previously denied adjustment of status application with USCIS by using form I-290B; that noncitizens must generally file motions within 30 days of the decision; and for a motion filed more than 30 days, USCIS may in its discretion excuse the untimely filing if the noncitizen demonstrates that the delay was reasonable and was beyond the noncitizen’s control.

On the USCIS CSPA page, there seems to be more room for motions to reopen where an applicant is not yet 21 using the new guidance as it says, “If we previously denied your adjustment of status application, but you believe your CSPA age calculation is under 21 under this policy guidance, you may file a motion to reopen….”

We will look with great interest to see how this all works out going forward.