For the H-1B cap season in 2020 (Fiscal Year 2021 H-1B cases), USCIS has started a registration system for the first time. Employers must first electronically register for the H-1B "lottery" and pay a $10 fee for each potential employee. If the case is selected, the employer then files a complete H-1B package with USCIS.
This system is different to previous years, where attorneys had to file complete H-1B petitions before even knowing whether this cases would be selected for processing. This resulted in many hours of work for employers, often thousands of dollars in legal fees, and the case might never even have been reviewed by USCIS if it didn't make the lottery. It was immensely frustrating for employers and for the legal community.
The new system is fairer to employers, who will incur fewer expenses initially. However, it is not clear whether the new system will result in thousands of inappropriate registrations and how USCIS will deal with these. Unscrupulous participants could try to sabotage the system by filing bogus applications. Uneducated employers could file H-1B registrations for employees that are not qualified. Finally, although USCIS has prohibited duplicate filings for the same person, there is little doubt that we will see many of these if the registration is just $10.
HOW DO I REGISTER?
Under the new process, employers will complete a registration process that will require only basic information about their company and each requested worker.
Employers and their representatives can set up the required registration accounts before March 1. USCIS has not posted the exact website address for registration, but employers may get started by creating an account here: https://myaccount.uscis.gov/users/sign_up.
WHAT ARE THE REGISTRATION DATES?
The registration period will run from March 1 to March 20, 2020.
WHAT INFORMATION IS NEEDED TO REGISTER?
We expect that the the following information will be needed when registering an employee for the cap lottery:
WHEN WILL USCIS MAKE THE SELECTION?
USCIS says that it will notify selected applications by March 31, 2020.
WHEN CAN WE FILE CASE IF WE ARE SELECTED?
We should be able to file cases starting on April 1, and have 90 days to file.
WHAT IF MY CASE IS NOT SELECTED?
Assuming that USCIS receives more than enough registrations than needed to meet the H-1B cap, all unselected cases will remain on a "waiting list". If USCIS needs to select more H-1B cases, it will choose from this waiting list. We don't know yet how the waiting list will work exactly, or whether masters’ degree cases will get any preferential treatment.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR DUPLICATE APPLICATIONS?
If an employer submits more than one registration per employee in the same fiscal year, all registrations filed by that employer petitioner relating to that employee for that year will be considered invalid.
USCIS will post step-by-step instructions on how to complete the registration process, along with key dates and timelines, on its website as the initial registration period nears. Watch this page for updates.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
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Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.