United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will implement new procedures for the H-1B employment visa program in 2020 for professionals and employers seeking H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2021. H-1B visas are intended for professionals, including doctors, engineers, teachers, and computer programmers, to come to the United States and work legally for an American company. There is a limit set by Congress of 85,000 H-1B visas issued per year, although some applicants are not subject to this cap, and 20,000 of these visas are reserved particularly for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.
On December 6, 2019, USCIS announced that it will implement a new registration procedure for all employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree cap exemption. To fill the Fiscal Year 2021 visa petition cap, USCIS will open a registration period beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending on March 20, 2020. Assuming that the number of registrants exceeds the 85,000 allocated H-1B visas, USCIS will hold a lottery among them to select visa recipients. It is expected that the cap for H-1B visas will be met and exceeded once the registration period opens, as was normal under the procedure before online registration was implemented.
Employers will be required to complete an online registration process including information about their business and each requested worker. Each H-1B registration will be subject to a $10 USCIS fee. However, the new online registration will not require that a full H-1B petition be submitted prior to the H-1B visa lottery. Once a visa is approved for the professional through the online registration process, the employer will have 90 days to complete the full H-1B petition. Prior to March 2020, USCIS will publish additional guidelines for the new online H-1B visa registration process.
The National Foundation for American Policy has reported that denial rates for new H-1B petitions for initial employment have increased from 6% in Fiscal Year 2015 to 24% through the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2019. Given the reforms in U.S. immigration policy and enforcement, employers and workers seeking H-1B visas should prepare thoroughly prior to the registration period to ensure they will be ready to submit full H-1B petitions once the lottery is completed.
Attorney Joseph Alain Moro assists both professionals and employers through the H-1B visa application process, and can advise on the ramifications of the new law to your situation. Please contact Moro Legal, LLC, for more information and to schedule an attorney consultation.