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‘Tis the Season for More Changes to the H-1B Cap Lottery System ‘Tis the Season for More Changes to the H-1B Cap Lottery System

‘Tis the Season for More Changes to the H-1B Cap Lottery System

Major changes are coming to the annual lottery for new H-1B visa status this cap season. United States companies regularly use the H-1B visa classification to sponsor foreign engineers, software developers, physicians, professors, scientists, managers, and other professionals for employment in the U.S. Often, this classification is the only realistic visa option available for highly-skilled foreign nationals to work in the U.S. The H-1B “cap season” that will take place in early 2020 for Fiscal Year 2021 will feature many significant changes from previous years, including the launch of a new H-1B electronic registration system. Employers should prepare now for what will be different this season. Learn more about best practices by reviewing our H-1B webinar from Jan. 14, 2020 here.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require employers to submit electronic registrations for the number of H-1B petitions they want to file in the lottery between March 1 and March 20, 2020. Earlier this year, a new federal regulation went into effect that established that USCIS could require employers to submit electronic registrations online, before April 1 of each year, for each prospective H-1B employee for whom they intend to file a new H-1B visa petition. Historically, USCIS only accepted hard-copy petitions for the 85,000 total new H-1B visas available each fiscal year starting on April 1, for a five-day lottery period. After the five-day window closed, USCIS conducted a randomized, computer-generated lottery to select the petitions it would adjudicate and eventually approve for H-1B classification. With the new electronic registration process, USCIS will hold a lottery in the early spring of 2020 without requiring employers to submit a full hard-copy petition for each prospective H-1B employee they wish to sponsor. Employers whose registration(s) are selected in the lottery then will have at least 90 days in which to file the full, corresponding H-1B petition with USCIS on behalf of the prospective employee. Importantly, employers will be unable to substitute individuals for other selected registrations.

The H-1B electronic registration system will require payment of a non-refundable $10 fee per registration, along with disclosure of basic information about each prospective H-1B employee and the company that seeks to sponsor him or her. Company information will include the legal name, taxpayer identification number, office address, and contact information for the authorized company signatory, as well as an attestation regarding the company’s intent to file an H-1B petition on behalf of the specified individual. The prospective employee information will consist of the employee’s full name, gender, passport information and educational level.

In the event USCIS determines the H-1B electronic registration system will not be operational by the March registration window, these new requirements could be suspended and prior filing methods would be reinstated. Employers should be prepared for this possibility, as well as expediting their internal review of potential H-1B cap subject filings.

To discuss the H-1B visa category, these new registration procedures, or any other immigration matters, please contact Jenifer M. BrownChristl Glier, or another member of the Ice Miller Immigration Practice.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The reader must consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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