USCIS Announces a New Registration System for H-1B Visas
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be using a new electronic registration process for the H-1B visa lottery. Employers can use H-1B visas to hire foreign nationals with skills in “specialty occupations.” Federal immigration law places a limit, or cap, on how many foreign nationals can secure H-1B visas. H-1B visas are limited to 85,000 “slots” per year. Employers who regularly seek H-1B visa workers are concerned that the software used for the new system will not work effectively.
Currently, employers file a full H-1B cap application or petition. Then, the USCIS randomly selects eligible petitions. This lottery process often required unnecessary paperwork and expensive mailing costs for the agency and the businesses applying for the H-1B visas. The new system seeks to reduce the costs and paperwork associated with applying for a visa by allowing applicants to register online and then randomly selecting applicants out of the registered applications.
How Does the H-1B Visa Cap and Lottery Work?
The USCIS caps the number of H-1B visas it allows. By federal law, the USCIS will only issue 85,000 H-1B visas. Of the 85,000, 65,000 slots are set aside for the “Bachelor Cap.” Only individuals with bachelor’s degrees from U.S. universities or bachelor’s degrees for those with degrees from foreign schools. An additional 20,000 visas are set aside for the “Master’s Cap” for foreign workers who hold advanced degrees from U.S. schools. A candidate can “win” the lottery for a visa, but still not receive the visa due to not meeting the legal requirements.
Prior to the changes imposed by the new registration system, business owners would apply for an H-1B visa and request an October 1st start date. Typically, employers have submitted applications in the first week of April. USCIS usually holds a lottery for applications received within the first five business days of April. The agency often receives over 200,000 H-1 B applications for only 85,000 open “slots.”
The New Registration Program for the H-1B Visa Process
The registration process only requires basic information about the company seeking a work visa. During the registration process, the employer will need to proIn December 2019, the USCIS announced that it had tested a pilot program for the new H-1B registration system. The agency will implement the new registration system for the fiscal year 2021 cap. Employers who wish to file an application for a foreign-born employee’s H-1B visa must register electronically and pay the $10 H-1B registration fee.
How will the new registration system change the application process for employers? The new process will streamline the application process. It will reduce paperwork and the exchange of data. According to the USCIS, employers will benefit from overall cost savings. Instead of submitting a complete application in April and waiting to see if they win the lottery, employers can complete a more simple registration process.
vide basic information about his or her business and about each applicant. Between March 1 and March 20, 2020, USCIS plans to open the initial registration period. The agency will run a random selection process, or lottery, if necessary on these electronic registrations. Only those applicants who the USCIS randomly selects will be eligible to file for a H-1B cap-subject petition.
Concerns Over the New H-1B Online Registration System
The USCIS has stated that the new electronic registration program will save both the petitioners and the agency money. The new registration fee is only $10 per H-1B visa petitioner. Businesses seeking visas for their employees will no longer have to mail in full petitions before the lottery. According to USCIS, the agency has already finished a pilot testing phase. The testing phase included sessions with industry representatives. One of the goals behind the new system is to modernize the USCIS from being a paper-based agency to a fully electronic and online agency.
However, business owners who rely on H-1B visas have a right to be concerned over the new online registration process. The software USCIS will use in the new registration process has not been tested under real-world conditions. As many as 200,000 or more business owners may seek to register potential foreign employees at the same time. Whether or not the software can handle such a large amount of electronic requests remains to be seen.
Requirements for an H-1B Visa
Not all potential foreign employees qualify for an H-1B visa. In order to petition for an H-1B visa, the employee must have a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent amount of experience. The employer who is seeking the H-1B petition must obtain a labor condition application from the U.S. Department of Labor. Spouses and minor children of an H1B employee are authorized to live in the United States through an H-4 status in order to study. They may not work, however.
An employee can stay in the U.S. for a maximum of six years after receiving an H-1B visa. In certain circumstances, an employee can receive an extension of the visa beyond six-year, when he or she is applying for an employment-based permanent residency or a green card.
Our H-1B Visa Lawyers are Here to Help
The lawyers at Ray Law International, PC have an in-depth understanding of the H-1B visa process. We also have experience successfully preparing H-1B petitions for a wide range of occupations and employment fields. If you have concerns about the new H-1B registration process, we are here to help. Should the USCIS select your petition in the lottery after the registration period, you will still need to provide a thorough petition. Our lawyers can help you navigate the process easily. Contact our immigration law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you.