Changes to the H-1B process

USCIS has announced that the proposed new H-1B registration system will take effect on March 1, 2020. The new system will save employers time and money, as it will inform them if their petition has been accepted in the H-1B lottery before they file the full application.

The registration period for new H-1B petitions will be open from March 1st to March 20th and there will be a registration fee of $10. USCIS has provided the following information about the new electronic pre-filing system:

  • During this initial registration period, prospective petitioners or their authorized representatives must electronically submit a separate registration naming each alien for whom they seek to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. 
  • If a sufficient number of registrations are received, we will randomly select the number of registrations projected as needed to reach the H-1B numerical allocations after the initial registration period closes and no later than March 31, 2020.
  • Prospective petitioners with selected registrations will be eligible to file a cap-subject petition only for the alien named in the registration.

Additional details and instructions about the online registration system have not yet been posted. USCIS intends to post step-by-step instructions for navigating the new system, but has not indicated how much time they will give applicants and their legal representatives to adjust to and prepare for the new procedure.

According to the announcement, “The electronic registration process will dramatically streamline processing by reducing paperwork and data exchange, and will provide an overall cost savings to petitioning employers.”  While employers have seen a drastic increase in denials and RFEs (Requests for Evidence) for H-1B petitions in recent years, this proposed new system should reduce some of the frustration that comes with preparing a full application and having it returned following the random selection period.

Even though there is now the option to pre-register for the H-1B, due to the small window for applications, it may be a good idea to begin working on the full application before hearing back from USCIS. Applicants are encouraged to speak with an attorney to discuss a timeline for beginning work on the full application before and during the March electronic registration period.