04 Mar 2024

United States

H-1B Petitions May No Longer be Filed with a USCIS Service Center and Must Use the New Version of Form I-129 Starting April 1, 2024

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last Friday that, as of April 1, 2024, its four Service Centers in California, Texas, Nebraska, and Vermont will no longer accept Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker seeking H-1B Specialty Occupation Worker status or H-1B1 Singaporean and Chilean Trade Agreement Worker status. Currently, such petitions are filed with one of these four Service Centers, depending primarily on the geographical location of the petitioner’s primary office and the type of H-1B petition filed.

Starting on April 1, 2024, the USCIS will require all hard copy or paper forms I-129 seeking H-1B or H-1B1 status to be filed at a USCIS lockbox facility. Concurrently filed ancillary forms, including Form I-907 Premium Processing requests, Form I-539 change or extension of status requests, and Form I-765 Employment Authorization Document applications, must also be filed with a USCIS lockbox facility.

The USCIS’ announcement reminds H-1B petitioners that are filing Form I-129 alone or with Form I-907 that they may file these online rather than in paper format. The online filing of Form I-129 and associated Form I-907 for H-1B petitions not subject to the annual quota or cap will begin this month and, on April 1st, USCIS will start accepting H-1B petitions subject to the annual quota or cap that are filed online. The online filing of Form I-129 will require the creation and maintenance of a myUSCIS Organizational Account. Although the USCIS’ decision to prohibit H-1B I-129 filing with a Service Center may be intended to encourage online filing, it should be noted that the USCIS’ launch of Organizational Accounts in the past couple of weeks has been beset by a number of technological problems that appear not to have been fully resolved yet. This suggests that the online filing of Form I-129 may experience similar challenges.

The USCIS’ announcement makes it clear that the agency will reject any paper H-1B or H-1B1 petition mailed to a USCIS Service Center and received on or after April 1, 2024, and that no grace period will be allowed. The specific lockbox addresses to which these petitions should be mailed has not yet been provided by the USCIS, but the agency indicates that it will disclose these lockbox mailing addresses in late March in a public alert and on its Form I-129 Direct Filing Addresses page.

In a separate but related announcement last Friday, USCIS informed prospective H-1B petitioners that, starting April 1, 2024, they must use the new 04/01/24 version of Form I-129 when filing a paper H-1B petition.  Again, no grace period will be provided and any other version of the form that is received on or after April 1, 2024, will be rejected. The new version of Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers must also be used beginning April 1, 2024. USCIS has made available previews of the new form I-129 and I-140  on its website.

T&S Takeaway

All H-1B and H-1B1 petitioners filing paper petitions on or after April 1st of this year should be mindful of the new filing locations, new fees, and new forms required by the USCIS and should be aware that any petitions sent to a Service Center and/or that use an older version of the form will be rejected. As noted above, online filing of H-1B petitions, which would circumvent any issues related to the physical location of a filing and the version of the form used, will soon be available. The technological difficulties that may arise in the online petition filing process suggest that care should be exercised in choosing this option, however.

The attorneys of Tafapolsky & Smith LLP will monitor and analyze all developments affecting the filing of H-1B and other petitions seeking immigration benefits and will immediately provide updates on any significant developments in this area.

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The content above is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Use of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. 

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