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On December 6th, 2019, USCIS announced the launch of a new electronic registration process, a new requirement for H-1B applicants in the upcoming H-1B cap lottery. Employers hoping to sponsor H-1B applications for skilled and educated foreign nationals will have to pay a $10 registration fee for each application in order to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the FY 2021 cap. The initial electronic registration period will run from March 1, 2020, through March 20, 2020.

“Under this new process, employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the cap, or their authorized representatives, will complete a registration process that requires only basic information about their company and each requested worker.” Currently, there is little to no information on what “basic information” USCIS will require in initial H-1B registrations. Critics of the new system are concerned about the impact this will have on employers and attorneys who have already begun preparing or who will soon begin preparing cases for filing. The timing of the registration system also cuts close to the H-1B filing deadline, as cap subject cases must be filed in the first week of April.

The number of H-1B visas available is subject to a numerical cap set by Congress, currently 65,000 per fiscal year, and an additional 20,000 for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree (or foreign equivalent) or higher. If the number of registrations exceeds the number of available H-1Bs, as it did earlier this year, USCIS will run a lottery to select the registrants eligible to file a petition. Select applications will be authorized to submit the full H-1B petition to USCIS. This new system creates yet another step in the already complex process for employers to complete in order to file H-1B applications for prospective employees. This is potentially problematic for smaller companies who file H-1Bs for a smaller number of employees because they will compete in the same pool as large companies for consideration.

USCIS states that the new electronic registration is designed to streamline the H-1B cap selection process and create cost savings and efficiencies for U.S. employers and USCIS, but some immigration advocates question whether the policy’s implementation will result in USCIS’ stated policy goals. There is widespread concern that USCIS may delay issuing the instructions employers need to complete the application in an already narrow timeframe. Given the high volume of users who need to access the registration system in a short period of time, there is also some risk that the website may crash, further limiting the amount of time employers have to submit the information.

If you are a U.S employer or HR professional and you would to learn more about how the new H-1B electronic registration system may impact your company, we would always recommend consulting an experienced immigration attorney who regularly files H-1B applications. If you would like to speak to a member of our team, please reach out to us through our contact form or email us directly at info@mcenteelaw.com

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