The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has proposed charging a $10 fee to employers to register each H-1B lottery candidate, starting with next year’s lottery.
This year, USCIS announced plans to change the H-1B lottery process by requiring employers to electronically pre-register candidates for the annual lottery. For years, USCIS has required employers to submit a complete H-1B petition for a candidate to be entered into the lottery. For the next H-1B lottery, employers would only be required to register candidates online to participate. Employers would submit completed H-1B petitions only for those candidates lucky enough to be selected in the lottery.
DHS is proposing the fee to offset the cost of building and maintaining the online registration platform. The fee would also help offset technology purchases and the cost of implementing the registration process and monitoring it for fraud and abuse. DHS expects about 193,000 H-1B lottery registrations annually. That means the proposed fee would generate more than $1.9 million in annual revenue. DHS estimates USCIS will spend about $1.5 million to develop the registration website.
DHS published the $10 fee proposal in the Federal Register on Sept. 4. USCIS will accept comments from the public on the proposal through Oct. 4.
The Cost of H-1Bs
The $10 registration fee will add minimally to the cost that employers already pay to file an H-1B petition. Excluding legal fees and the optional $1,410 premium processing fee, employers currently pay $1,710 to $6,460 in fees for each H-1B petition:
- The filing fee for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: $460
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: $500
- American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) Fee: $750 if the employer has fewer than 25 employees and $1,500 if the employer has 25 or more employees
- Public Law 114-113 Fee: $4,000, which only applies to employers with more than 50 employees and more than half of those employees have H-1B or L-1 status
USCIS does not keep the revenue from most of these fees. It retains the filing fee, one-third of the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee, and 5 percent of the ACWIA fee. Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Treasury, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, and the National Science Foundation receive the remainder of the fees.
In the proposal, DHS estimates the cost savings for both USCIS and H-1B petitioners under the new H-1B registration system. USCIS will save $1.6 million annually in administrative costs associated with managing nearly 200,000 paper filings for the H-1B lottery.
Each year, employers whose H-1B candidates were not selected in the lottery still spent $42.7 million to $66.8 million to prepare H-1B petitions, USCIS estimates.
In the proposal, DHS noted that deterring “frivolous registrations” could be one side benefit to the $10 registration fee. When USCIS first proposed the H-1B registration process, many expressed concern that lowering the barrier to enter the H-1B lottery would flood the system. It remains unclear just what impact the minimal registration fee and additional registration time will have on the process.
Benefits aside, many business, immigration, and education groups have expressed concern about the registration program. They remain concerned that USCIS will roll out the registration program with minimal testing and outreach. Last month, 15 organizations sent a joint letter to USCIS urging the agency to extensively test the H-1B registration system and solicit feedback from stakeholders before implementing to “minimize the risk of disruptions. Meaningful consideration of stakeholder recommendations and engagement in system testing is necessary to ensure that the registration system works as intended.”
The DHS proposal also offered interesting details on H-1B petitions, including:
- Most H-1B candidates work in the fields of computer programming, computer systems design, business support, engineering, software publishing, management consulting, and semiconductor and related device manufacturing.
- On average, each employer submitted five H-1B petitions.
- The median annual compensation for H-1B candidates ranged from a low of $42,000 to a high of $160,000.
- Attorneys or accredited professionals file about 75 percent of H-1B petitions subject to the lottery.
When Will Registration Begin?
USCIS already delayed the implementation of the electronic H-1B registration process from this year to next. And USCIS has not stated when the registration system will go live. Check back on the Alcorn Immigration Law Blog Page where we will post the latest H-1B developments.