U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will use its new online registration system in next year’s filing season for H-1B specialty occupation visas, which will allow employers to wait until after the H-1B visa lottery before preparing a foreign employee’s full petition.
Under the new system, employers seeking to hire foreign citizens on H-1B visas must first register the applicant’s basic information electronically before the lottery. Employers would then only need to file full petitions for its employees who were selected in the lottery, where hundreds of thousands of foreign citizens compete for 85,000 total slots.
The registration period will be open from March 1 to March 20, 2020.Employers wishing to hire H-1B professionals, including students completing their Optional Practical Training (OPT), should be aware of the changes to the program. The H-1B visa permits U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The law caps the number of H-1B visas to 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 visas for foreign nationals who hold master’s or higher degrees from American universities.
Since the number of cap-subject H-1B petitions filed each year typically far exceeds the number of available slots, USCIS has traditionally run the H-1B lottery to select which H-1B petitions will fall within the statutory H-1B cap for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2020. Since H-1B petitions may be filed no earlier than 180 days in advance of the October 1 start date, most cap-subject H-1B petitions are filed on or shortly after April 1 each year.