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New H-1B Lottery System to Take Effect in Advance of Fiscal Year 2021

What You Should Know About the New Pre-Registration Process

The USCIS recently announced that it is now ready to launch the new online pre-registration system for H-1B filings. The online system will be open for use from March 1, 2020 to March 20, 2020. Going forward, employers must first create accounts in the system for each H-1B beneficiary they may wish to sponsor. The fee for the online registration will be $10 per beneficiary.

Each year, the USCIS has traditionally used a lottery system to select 85,000 H-1B petitions for processing, comprised of 65,000 regular H-1B cap petitions and 20,000 petitions for beneficiaries with advanced degrees. Employers seeking to hire a university-educated worker to fill an H-1B specialty position could file a petition directly with the USCIS beginning on April 1st of each year. Once the H-1B cap was reached for regular and advanced degrees, the USCIS would select cases for processing via a lottery. Petitions that were not selected would then be returned to the employer’s attorney.

How the New Lottery Process Will Work:

  • Between March 1st and March 20th, an online account through the USCIS’ new H-1B pre-registration system for each potential H-1B beneficiary will need to be created. Information about the employer and the beneficiary will be needed for creating an account.
  • On March 31st, the USCIS will send notifications to employers whose petitions were selected for processing.
  • At that point, the attorney will then be given up to 90 days to file full H-1B cap petitions with the USCIS. If an H-1B petition is approved, the annual October 1st start-date will remain in effect.

Advantages of the New H-1B Pre-registration Process:

The new pre-registration system is expected to speed up overall H-1B processing timetables, and create a more efficient and streamlined process for applying. This allows companies and H-1B workers—often in F-1 Status and relying on OPT or OPT Cap-Gap provision—to plan ahead.

What Employers Can do Now:

As the process will also shorten the timeframe for filing H-1B petitions, to ensure that all of their potential H-1B cases will be entered into the pre-registration system before the deadline, and that Department of Labor LCAs are filed beforehand, employers are encouraged to initiate the H-1B cap process as soon as possible. The USCIS will also permit attorneys to begin setting up accounts before March 1st, and make modifications before the registration deadline. It is important to note that employers will only be able to file petitions for H-1B matters that were pre-registered in the online system.

Employers should also bear in mind that if more than one account is set up in the system for the same employer and beneficiary, the USCIS will reject all accounts from that specific employer. As such, it is critical that employers and/or their representatives ensure that only one account exists for each H-1B matter they plan to sponsor.

Until the USCIS releases final deadlines and instructions for setting up accounts, employers should identify all potential H-1B beneficiaries, and also familiarize themselves as to the new pre-registration rules. Please note that as with previous electronic system roll-outs, system outages and technical issues with the registration process may ensue–both with the registration system and the Department of Labor’s new FLAG system for Labor Conditions Application (LCA) submissions.











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