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Exploring the USCIS H-1B Cap Registration Update

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H-1B visas loom large in the minds of many of our clients, and this year is no exception. The H-1B visa has been at the forefront of our clients’ thoughts even more this year, due to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announcing plans to implement an electronic registration process in the next H-1B visa lottery. Although plans for transitioning the H-1B registration process have long been known—we wrote about it back in December 2018—until recently, details about the new process have been thin. 


On January 9, 2020, the USCIS began filling in some of the important details about the online process and offering some guidance to employers when it formally announced the new H-1B registration process, publishing Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens in the Federal Register.  


What We Know About the New H-1B Process


One of the most valuable pieces of information gleaned from the USCIS publishing is the dates of the initial registration period—March 1 through March 20, 2020. During this time, H-1B cap-subject visa petitioners, including those eligible for an advanced degree exception, can register electronically through an online portal on Petitioners, or their authorized representatives, are required to fill out a separate registration for each alien they’re seeking a cap-subject H-1B petition for. 


Two important things to note about the new electronic process is that there is a non-refundable $10 fee per registration (payable via bank account, credit card, or debit card) and registering the same petitioner multiple times is forbidden. 


To register for through the USCIS online portal, some basic information is required about both the employer and prospective employee. Before beginning the registration process, you’ll want to know the employer’s name, address, and employer identification number (EIN), along with the employee’s name, degree, and country of birth. 


After the registration window closes, the USCIS will conduct a lottery, selecting 85,000 registrants. Those selected will be alerted via email or text message no later than March 31, 2020. The USCIS will accept completed petitions by April 1, 2020, although selected petitions will have at least 90 days from the date of registration to submit a complete petition. 


What We’re Waiting to Learn About the New H-1B Process


The USCIS’s initial notice about the new online registration process has cleared up some gray areas, but there is still a lot of information left unconfirmed. For example, they have not yet unveiled details on how to create an account on their portal or provided instructions on how to register an employee, and they have only hinted at the information required to register for a cap-subject H-1B petition. The USCIS states that it will conduct outreach—such as hosting in-depth webinars—in advance of the registration process to allow users the chance to familiarize themselves with the process, but with the registration process a little over a month away, it's going to be a tight window. 


What You Can Do to Prepare for the Online H-1B Process 


In the past, employers filed complete H-1B petitions in advance of the USCIS H-1B visa lottery. One of the challenges with the new online process is that it only requires basic information during the registration process. This makes it easy to register cap-subject H-1B petitioners, but if the person doesn’t merit a visa, they’ll only get denied further along in the process. Consequently, if you’re planning on registering for an H-1B visa petition, it’s important to vet the person being put forth and ensure they’ll qualify for one of these highly sought-after visas, as well as identify potential issues such as missing evidence. 


Why GoffWilson


GoffWilson’s sole focus is on immigration law, and we've prepared thousands of H-1B visa applications in our 30+ years of practice. There is still some ambiguity in the new online registration process, but that shouldn’t mean inaction. Using our years of experience, we help clients create strategies custom-tailored to the needs of their organizations and navigate the complex and ever-changing immigration system.


If you have questions about the new online H-1B registration process or are ready to begin preparing for another H-1B season, contact GoffWilson today. Immigration isn’t just what we do, it’s our passion.

Filed under:H-1B Visa, Immigration Law