U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced implementation of an online registration process for the upcoming FY2021 H-1B lottery, applicable to all new* cap-subject H-1B petitions. Employer Petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including “U.S. Master’s” cap cases, will be required to electronically register and pay a $10 fee for each prospective H-1B foreign worker. *Please note foreign workers already in receipt of an H-1B visa number from a prior year are not likely subject to this process, nor are H-1B employees of exempt non-profit employers.
USCIS’ new electronic registration process will launch on March 1, 2020, extend through March 20, 2020 and reverse the Services’ prior method of ‘filing and then selection,’ in favor of a ‘selection and then filing’ protocol. In summary, petitioning employers and their representatives will submit prospective employee (“Beneficiary”) names, together with basic information about the company and prospective H-1B employee profile information. The H-1B random selection lottery process, if needed as a result of demand, will then be conducted on those electronic registrations. Only Beneficiary registrations selected in this lottery will then be eligible to file complete H-1B cap-subject petitions.
USCIS anticipates this new registration and lottery selection process will result in cost savings and efficiencies for Petitioners and USCIS, since only H-1B petitions selected will be permitted to submit a complete H-1B visa petition. USCIS recently completed a successful pilot testing phase, but Philip Levin & Associates (“PL&A”) is proceeding with caution in light of prior federal agency programs where mission critical online portals repeatedly crashed once real-world demand was realized.
While USCIS advises that successive registration period(s) may be created if initial demand is light, PL&A also anticipates new H-1B demand will likely outstrip visa supply by a significant margin. For last year’s FY2020 H-1B cap which began on April 1, 2019, more than 200,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions were filed for the approximately 85,000 new visa numbers available. With a nominal $10 fee being assessed for each new Beneficiary registration this year, it is anticipated that Petitioners will register many more potential H-1B employee candidates in order to increase the odds of having more of their Beneficiaries selected.
PL&A will advise our clients as new information is issued by USCIS. Until then, our office will continue to gather profile information on behalf of Petitioners and their employee Beneficiaries in advance of the rollout of this year’s H-1B cap-subject registration.