The day has finally come. USCIS has announced the implementation of the electronic registration process for next year’s H-1B lottery, forever changing the landscape of H-1Bs. Instead of preparing and filing completed H-1B petitions and then finding out whether or not that petition was selected in the lottery, employers (or their attorneys) will now electronically register, provide some basic information about the petitioner and beneficiary, and pay a nominal $10 registration fee. USCIS will then conduct a random selection process based on those electronic registrations; only those selected will be eligible to file cap-subject H-1B petitions. The registration period will run from March 1, 2020 until March 20, 2020.
There are still a lot of unknown variables surrounding this electronic registration process, but we should hopefully get more information in the coming weeks and months. Newly implemented electronic government systems are notorious for being bug-laden and glitchy in their early phases, so there is concern how this rollout will function. We will also monitor closely how much time employers and attorneys will have to file the H-1B petition upon being informed of selection; 60-90 days seems likely. Given that it seems very likely that the H-1B “period” will be pushed back significantly past April 1, timing of employment will also be significantly affected, since USCIS will probably not be able to adjudicate petitions before October 1 (unless employers opt to use premium processing). And given the seeming ease of registration, it will be worth seeing how many registrations there are vying for the 85,000 visas available. In years past USCIS has received over 200,000 H-1B petitions; it seems probable that the amount of registrations will be significantly more numerous.
H-1Bs, already in a period of great uncertainty, face an even more daunting horizon. We will have to closely monitor information and updates as they become available. We will informed as we learn more details about what next year will bring. More commentary to follow.
Copied from USCIS:
WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it has completed a successful pilot testing phase and is implementing the registration process in the next H-1B lottery. Employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the fiscal year 2021 cap, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee.
The electronic registration process will dramatically streamline processing by reducing paperwork and data exchange, and will provide an overall cost savings to petitioning employers.
Under this new process, employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the cap, or their authorized representatives, will complete a registration process that requires only basic information about their company and each requested worker. USCIS will open an initial registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020. The H-1B random selection process, if needed, will then be run on those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.
Historically, employers filed their full, and often voluminous, H-1B cap-subject petitions with USCIS, after which USCIS would select eligible petitions through a random selection process. This process resulted in unnecessary paperwork and incurred mailing costs for both petitioners and the agency.
“By streamlining the H-1B cap selection process with a new electronic registration system, USCIS is creating cost savings and efficiencies for petitioners and the agency, as only those selected will now be required to submit a full petition,” said USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans. “The agency completed a successful pilot testing phase, which included sessions with industry representatives, and implementation of the registration system will further the goal of modernizing USCIS from a paper-based to an online-filing agency.”
USCIS will post step-by-step instructions informing registrants how to complete the registration process on its website along with key dates and timelines as the initial registration period nears. USCIS will also conduct public engagements and other outreach activities to ensure registrants and interested parties are familiar with the new registration system. The agency may determine it is necessary to continue accepting registrations, or open an additional registration period, if it does not receive enough registrations and subsequent petitions projected to reach the numerical allocations.
DHS formally created the H-1B registration requirement in the final rule, Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens (PDF), published on Jan. 31, and effective on April 1, 2019. DHS intends to publish a notice in the Federal Register in the coming weeks to formally announce implementation of the H-1B registration system and provide additional details on the process.
On Nov. 8, 2019, DHS published a final rule establishing a $10 H-1B registration fee. The registration fee final rule is effective on Dec. 9, 2019, and will apply to registrations submitted during the initial and future registration periods.
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