New H-1B Lottery Registration System

Glen D. Wasserstein, Managing Partner of ILG, specializes in immigration law, focusing on E-2 Investor Visas, L-1 visas, H-1B visas, and federal litigation. With a background in international relations, he founded ILG in 1996 and has addressed human trafficking at the United Nations Convention on Crime.

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced a final rule for a new, electronic preregistration process for the H-1B 2021 cap selection system. Under the new system, employers will complete an online form during a designated registration period for each employee they want to sponsor for the H-1B lottery. The fee for each registration will be $10, due at the time of the submission.

Once the H-1B candidates are selected , employers will then file an entire petition for selected candidates – something that previously had to be done for every H-1B lottery candidate regardless of whether they were chosen in the lottery. This new registration could make it easier for employers to register more foreign employees and make the lottery process less costly, since employers will only be required to submit petitions for selected candidates.

Due to the large number of H-1B applications submitted in excess of the 65,000-annual limit (and the 20,000 advance degree exemption from the limit) for new H-1B petitions, the lottery has been used for the past several years to select which cases USCIS will adjudicate. In fiscal year 2019, the USCIS received a total of 190,098 H-1B petitions for the regular and master’s cap.

The USCIS claims it will implement the electronic registration process for the fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap selection process once testing of the system has been completed. Many industry groups have expressed doubts that the system will function properly without any major testing.

They have good reason to doubt the system’s functionality. Last year, on January 1, after receiving a reported 100,000 applications “within the first five minutes of New Year’s Day,” the new DOL H-2B system crashed. Thousands of small businesses, including landscaping companies, restaurants and other seasonal businesses, remained in limbo as the website remained closed.

Hopefully, USCIS will perform better than DOL with this rollout. The new system has the potential to greatly improve the H-1B lottery process.

There are a few key changes to note:

No Duplicate Registrations

The final rule prohibits duplicate registrations to prevent employers from flooding the system with registrations to maximize their opportunity to have their employees selected. (this was already prohibited under the old system).

Added Preference for Masters Cap

The USCIS will once again utilize a weighted lottery system that will give an added preference to U.S. master’s degree or advanced degree holders as candidates in the next fiscal year’s H-1B lottery. By contrast, in fiscal year 2019 the USCIS for the first time completed the regular cap selection process first, followed by the master’s cap selection process, which increased the likelihood that an individual candidate with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university would be selected in the lottery for an employer.

Fee Increases

The USCIS also announced an increase in the premium processing fee from $1,410 to $1,440, effective Nov. 29, 2019.

The USCIS would, for the first time, charge a fee for an initial work authorization document related to an asylum application.

The fee for an H-1B application and other work visas filed on the form I-129 would increase by $100, from $460 to $560.

IL advises employers and foreign employees to begin gathering the required documents for your H-1B filing now. Please contact us for more information on how we can help with your H-1B filing this year.