A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Get Ready for H-1B Registration on March 1

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that H-1B registration for the FY 2021 cap will begin on March 1st 2020. The registration period will be from March 1st to March 20th. USCIS will randomly select the submitted petitions by March 31st. 

The H-1B visa program is designed for skilled foreign professionals to obtain employment authorization to work in the U.S. for up to six years.  However, due to the large number of applications, competition for visa numbers have been intense in recent years.  USCIS has implemented a new registration system to facilitate the random selection process. 

To register a petition for an employee, the employer must include some basic information: the employee's name, date of birth, country of birth, country of citizenship, and passport number. Employers must also provide their name, employer identification number (EIN), and mailing address.  

Each registration has a fee of $10, for initial and future registration periods. If an employer is petitioning for multiple employees, they must submit separate registrations for each. Duplicate registrations for the same employee are disregarded. A random selection process will be used to pick cases to fill the H-1B annual cap of 65,000 as well as the master cap of 20,000.  

Selected applicants will have 90 days to submit the complete H-1B petition.  DHS has discarded the staggered filling system proposed initially.  Employer may submit applications on or after April 1st.  

As was confirmed in the final rule, the upcoming cap season will also use a different way to select beneficiaries. First, both advanced degree holders and regular (Bachelor's) degree holders will be counted against the regular visa cap. The unselected advanced degree holders are then counted against the advanced degree visa cap. This favors selection of beneficiaries with advanced degrees. 

The new registration system seems to require less initial information.  It may actually prove to be a trap for H-1B applicants who are too complacent.  

First, this is the first time that USCIS is using the new registration system.  Technical glitches and delays are expected.  Further, obtaining all required supporting documents such as school transcripts, academic evaluation, Labor Condition Application, documents proving employer-employee relationship (for off-site employment), etc., takes time.  One should not wait till his/her case is selected before collecting the necessary documents and information.   Finally, the H-1B denial rates reached an all-time high last year.  It is very important that both employers and employees do their best to prepare as complete an H-1B petition as they possibly can. 

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