Effective April 1, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Naturalization Service (USCIS) published a Final Rule changing the manner in which the H-1B lottery is administered. Notably, the Final Rule introduces an electronic H-1B registration process and reverses the order in which advanced degree exemption petitions are selected.
Change in H-1B Lottery Administration
Currently, U.S. employers must submit fully completed H-1B petitions in order to participate in the H-1B lottery. According to the final rule, USCIS has instituted a registration process that will require employers to electronically register each beneficiary for whom they seek to file H-1B petitions. This will eliminate the need for the employer to prepare and mail a completed H-1B petition package prior to selection in the H-1B lottery. If a registered beneficiary is selected in the H-1B lottery, the employer will be granted a 90 day window to submit the fully completed H-1B petition package by mail.
However, this new registration system will not be implemented for filings that will occur on April 1, 2019, (FY2020). Instead, USCIS has chosen to suspend the registration requirement until it can complete all requisite user testing of the system to ensure it is fully operable. USCIS anticipates that the registration requirement will be in effect for next year’s H-1B cap (FY2021), at the earliest.
Change in H-1B Lottery Process for U.S. Master or Higher Degree Beneficiaries.
Federal immigration laws provide for the granting of 65,000 H-1B visas each year to qualified specialty occupation workers. An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are available to qualified specialty occupation workers who also possess master’s degrees or higher earned at non-profit U.S. universities. If the number of H-1B petitions received during the five day filing window exceeds the number of visas available, USCIS will conduct a lottery to determine which petitions are accepted for adjudication and which are rejected. In prior years, a lottery was held first for the 20,000 advanced degree visas. Employers whose H-1B petitions were not selected in the advanced degree lottery would then be placed in the regular 65,000 visa lottery pool. The Final Rule reverses the order of the lottery. Therefore, all beneficiaries, whether they possess advanced degrees or not, will first participate in the regular 65,000 visa lottery. Any advanced degree holders not selected in the regular lottery will now be placed in the 20,000 visa lottery pool. The reversal of the order is anticipated to increase the overall number of beneficiaries with advanced degrees earned in the United States receiving an available H-1B visa.
If you have any questions regarding this Final Rule or submission of H-1B cap petitions for FY 2020 or FY 2021, please contact: