Major changes to the annual H-1B lottery process will be going into effect this spring. For Fiscal Year 2021, USCIS will be implementing an online registration system, with an initial registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020.
The H-1B cap opens every year on the first business day of April. Because of the massive demand for this visa category, the H-1B cap of 65,000 for regular H-1Bs and 20,000 for U.S. Master’s degree graduates usually fills up within the first week that the cap is opened, after which USCIS conducts an electronic lottery of all submitted petitions.
The registration system will dramatically change the H-1B lottery process. Instead of preparing and filing full H-1B petitions for each prospective employee being submitted, the employer or their legal representative will need to first register each employee in the system during the March 1st through March 20th window. The registration will entail basic information about the employer, employee, and job offer, but will not necessitate the labor-intensive process of submitting a full H-1B petition.
USCIS will then conduct the lottery using the online registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions and will have a pre-determined window of time in which to do so following selection.
There are certainly advantages to the online system. Time and money once wasted on preparing full H-1B petitions that do not get selected will be drastically reduced. The registration will require much less paperwork, cost $10 per prospective employee entered and allow employers, or legal representatives, to register multiple prospective employees at the same time. This will allow employers to focus the bulk of their energy on those H-1B candidates that do get selected.
However, this system will potentially also make it easier for very large organizations to inflate numbers submitted to the initial lottery, as the reduced effort and fee makes it easier to submit even weak candidates.
Additionally, the new registration period means that employers must decide even earlier than usual whether they wish to file for a prospective employee or risk missing the H-1B lottery altogether.
Finally, as with all new systems, we expect that there will be unforeseen technical issues as the registration process begins. We encourage all of our clients to begin the H-1B preparation as early as possible to ensure that we have sufficient time to navigate this new process together.