The H-1B visa filing process will undergo a dramatic shift in 2020.  Employers are now required to participate an H-1B lottery registration prior to submitting the actual H-1B petition. This is a major change from previous years where the H-1B lottery was conducted based on the submission of the H-1B petition itself. The new system benefits employers and beneficiaries by reducing the initial cost of the H-1B process.  If the government does not select the employer to participate in the fiscal year filing opportunity, the employer avoids the cost of preparing a full H-1B needlessly.  This also allows an employer to secure a spot and then evaluate whether it wishes to move forward with little economic consequence.  

This system is a major shift in policy.  It is important to understand the new system and the requirements so an employer who intends to pursue an H-1B visa for a prospective employee does not lose the opportunity unwittingly.  The government is still finalizing the details for the electronic lottery registration process, but there is plenty known to date.

Historically, USCIS accepted H-1B petitions starting April 1 each year. This year, USCIS will accept H-1B registrations for the lottery from March 1 to March 20.  Employers will file the registration electronically through a yet to be defined government portal. The registration will require a government filing fee of $10. The fee will need to be paid by the employer using bank account information, a credit card, or a debit card. It is a requirement that the employer, not the proposed H-1B employee, pay the fee.  Checks and money orders will not be accepted for the registration fee because the registration is purely electronic.

The electronic registration form has not been released yet.  The registration will undoubtedly require basic information about the employer (company name, Federal Employer Identification Number, company address, and contact information for the person who will sign the H-1B petition) and about the proposed H-1B employee (beneficiary’s name, gender, date of birth, country of birth/citizenship, passport number, and if they have a Master’s degree of higher from a U.S. school). A separate registration is required for each prospective employee. If the petitioner submits more than one registration for a particular employee, the government will invalidate all registrations for the employee.   No double dipping allowed.

There is no indication that specifics about the job itself are necessary to complete the registration.  This is an empty promise because if an employer is selected, but the job or person does not qualify, the registration is meaningless.  An astute employer will ensure that there has been a full evaluation of H-1B eligibility beforehand instead of scrambling after the lottery process.   

At some point after the registration period closes, the government will run a lottery for all the submitted H-1B registrations. There are 85,000 H-1B visas available (65,000 under the regular cap for bachelor’s degree holders and an additional 20,000 visas for beneficiaries with Masters’ degrees or higher). Notifications of the lottery results will be sent no later than March 31, 2020. Notification of selection means the company is now eligible to submit a complete H-1B petition for the beneficiary listed in the registration. Petitioners will have at least 90 days from the registration selection to submit a complete H-1B petition, including a Labor Certification Application, Form I-129 and required supplements, required evidence, and government filing fees.

Any H-1B registration that is not chosen during the first round of the lottery will remain on reserve. USCIS has not explained how it will choose from the reserved registrations if more visa numbers become available (such as by employers failing to file a full H-1B petition for a selected registration). For F-1 students who have OPT expiring prior to October 1, 2020, the H-1B Cap Gap benefits will not attach until the full H-1B petition is submitted. In other words, filing only a H-1B registration for the lottery will not be enough to extend F-1/OPT status.

If you have questions about the H-1B visa process, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with Wilson Law Group at 612-436-7100.