In preparation for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap season, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is holding “Tech Talks” to delve into the latest USCIS organizational account updates. In the session held Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, USCIS confirmed that registrants for this year’s cap will need to possess a valid, unexpired passport or travel document at the time of registration. This is a new requirement for this year’s cap season. Additionally, employers must provide the beneficiaries’ passport or travel document expiration date, as it is a mandatory piece of information for registration submission.

In the new rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Feb. 2, 2024, DHS explains that the motivation behind requiring a valid passport or travel document at the time of registration is to maintain “[t]he integrity of the new selection process so USCIS can accurately identify each individual beneficiary, and all registrations submitted on their behalf.” 

Potential Issue: Passport Renewal Underway

A concern arises for individuals currently in the process of renewing their passports. This situation could pose a challenge for those who may not have a valid passport during the brief registration window from March 6 (noon Eastern) to March 22 (noon Eastern) because of lengthy passport renewal processing times.

In this case, an employer would not be able to submit a registration for a beneficiary without a valid passport. This is a departure from past practice and a new requirement for the FY 2025 cap season. If employees need to renew expired passports, they should opt for the fastest processing option available from the government agency that issues passports.

DHS also acknowledges that “[w]hile the final passport or travel document requirement could impact individuals who do not yet hold valid passports or travel documents at the time of registration, DHS has determined the described benefits of program integrity outweigh any additional burden to prospective beneficiaries.”

If an employer submits an H-1B registration with a valid passport, but the employee’s passport is renewed before the employer files for an H-1B petition, the employer can include copies of both passports in the petition and must clarify that the passport was renewed or replaced in the petition. An employer may clarify this point in the supplement page of Form I-129, for example. 

Potential Issue: Unable to Renew Passport

In rare cases where employees cannot renew their passports due to unique circumstances in their country, such as those experienced by Venezuelan nationals, employers should enter the expiration date of the employee’s most recently issued passport. 

However, if the validity of a beneficiary’s passport has been officially extended beyond its original expiration date by decree, the extended expiration date must be entered as per the mandate. Additionally, evidence of the mandated passport renewal by decree needs to be uploaded in the evidence section of the registration form.

The next USCIS Tech Talks will be held on the following dates: