What is H-1B
H-1B is a temporary immigration classification that allows employers to sponsor professional workers to perform work in the US. Every year the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) approves a limited number of H-1B petitions – 65,000 overall, with an additional 20,000 H-1B’s for foreign nationals who possess advanced U.S. degrees.
USCIS begins accepting H-1B “cap” filings for H-1B petitions in April with an employment start date of October 1, 2020. Due to the high volume of applications that USCIS receives each year, it conducts a lottery among employer requests for H-1B status for their employees. In order for an employer’s petition on behalf of a potential employee to be considered by USCIS, the petition must be randomly selected in USCIS’s lottery system. In past years, employers were required to prepare and submit a completed H-1B petition (at considerable expense) in order for the case to be considered in the lottery.
Changes to the Process
In order to streamline the process for the upcoming H-1B season, USCIS is implementing an electronic registration for employers who intend to file H-1B cases for their employees. H-1B registration will be open from March 1, 2020 through March 20, 2020. Employers interested in submitting H-1B petitions must register their proposed H-1B worker(s) to participate in the lottery. Compared to the prior system, which required detailed information about the company, proposed employment and the employee’s credentials and immigration status, the new registration process requires brief information and a $10 registration fee for each proposed worker. After registration closes, the lottery will be conducted and selected registrants will be notified no later than March 31, 2020. If selected, employers will have 90 days to prepare and submit a full H-1B petition to USCIS.
Benefits of the New Process
The changes to this year’s process will allow employers to propose an H-1B worker for a minimal less cost, and in most cases, without preparing a lengthy petition in advance. If the proposed worker is selected, then the employer may determine whether it wishes to proceed with case preparation and filing. There are still some circumstances where preparing the petition in advance would be advisable, such as where an employee’s existing work authorization will expire before the H-1B start date of October 1, 2020.