The H1B registration and lottery process can be a stressful time for the thousands of foreign nationals looking to obtain the coveted H1B work visa. Highly educated foreign professionals have become increasingly in demand to fill key positions in STEM fields in the U.S. economy and the H1B visa is a great option for employers to find new talent. The only downside of the H1B visa is the fact that only 85,000 visas are granted every year, making an annual lottery necessary to determine who will be approved.
As the year comes to a close, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has confirmed a final rule for a new electronic system for H1B pre-registration. And with the switch to an online preregistration system comes a host of changes for both H1B employers and their potential employees.
While testing of the system is still underway, the electronic system is slated to be implemented in the 2021 fiscal year. Many are hopeful that this transition to an online system will help to cut down on the bureaucratic hurdles around the H1B application process. In this article, we will break down some of the proposed changes to the H1B process to get a better idea of its impacts on H1B applicants and their employers.
USCIS H1B Pre-Registration Changes
Employers that want to preregister for the H1B FY 2021 cap selection system will be asked to submit a brief electronic form during the designated registration period for each employee sponsored in the lottery. The process concludes with a modest but nonrefundable fee of $10 per candidate. According to the USCIS, the additional fee has been instituted to recoup costs for the new registration system.
USCIS will open pre-registration from March 1 through March 20, 2020. USCIS will then run a random selection process on all the electronic registrations. Only those that are selected from the registrations will be eligible to file the complete H-1B cap-subject petitions. A more detailed step-by-step instructions on how to complete the H1B registration process will be available soon.
One of the benefits of this new system is that it does not require employers to fill out full H1B petitions for every lottery candidate – only the ones selected in the lottery from H1B registrations. For this reason, it will streamline the H1B lottery process for both employers and USCIS by cutting down significantly on the amount of paperwork being submitted.
The final rule also seeks to address the problem of duplicate registrations in the H1B lottery. Previously, employers would submit multiple applications on behalf of their H1B employees to increase the likelihood that they would be selected. Prohibiting these duplicate applications should ideally help cut down on application processing times and make the lottery process fairer for all H1B candidates.
H1B candidates who have obtained a master’s degree or higher in the United States will be given preference in the lottery process. This is a slight change from the selection process in 2019, in which there was a separate lottery process for these individuals that further increased their chances of being selected.
Finally, there will be a number of fee increases introduced in the April 2020 lottery process. Starting November 29, 2019, the premium processing fee for H1B applications will increase $30 from $1,410 to $1,440. The fee for all work visas filed on form I-129, including the H1B visa application, will increase by $100, from $460 to $560. Finally, the USCIS has announced its intention to introduce a fee for initial work authorization documents in asylum cases.
Public Reaction To H1B Online Registration
While the USCIS is hopeful that these changes will result in quicker and more cost-efficient processing of H1B applications, many have raised concerns about the proposed changes to the H1B online registration system. A number of immigration related organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Council on Education joined their voices in a letter to USCIS outlining their worries. In the letter, the organizations emphasized the importance of beta testing and obtaining extensive feedback from relevant groups to ensure a smooth transition to the electronic system.
The electronic system is currently in the testing phase and USCIS maintains confidence in their ability to conduct adequate testing before the implementation of the electronic system in March 2020.
It will take some time before the public and immigration officials fully understand the ramifications of the proposed policy revisions. At VisaPro, based on our immigration attorneys’ near 100% success rates, we remain confident in our ability to assist our clients no matter what changes are implemented and will be closely following these updates to ensure that we continue to successfully help foreign nationals from around the world to obtain the most appropriate U.S. work visas. If you have any questions regarding the H1B pre-registration, or need assistance with your H1B cap application filing, schedule a FREE H1B visa immigration attorney consultation today.
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