The H-1B visa lottery system is changing fast. And these changes may be a boon for American small businesses and startups and their H-1B candidates.
Starting with the April 2020 lottery, employers must now pay a nonrefundable $10 fee to register each candidate for the H-1B lottery. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), finalized the rule mandating the fee last month. The 20-day registration period will begin on March 1.
I’ll discuss the new H-1B registration fee and the H-1B lottery that begins on April 1 at a webinar on February 14, at noon PST. The Alcorn Immigration Law team is accepting clients with H-1B lottery filings now through March 20. However, the sooner you act will place you in a better position to deliberate and organize the required documents for a strong H-1B petition.
The Latest Details
Last month, USCIS announced successful testing of the registration system and would implement the H-1B registration process for the April lottery, also known as the 2021 cap lottery. The earliest that candidates selected in the lottery can begin working is October 1, 2020, which is the start of FY 2021.
The new registration system significantly lowers the barrier to sponsoring a prospective H-1B employee. That’s great news for all companies, particularly early-stage technology companies and small businesses. Employers—or their legal counsel—must register and pay a $10 fee for each candidate to participate in the digital H-1B lottery. Only those employers whose candidates were selected in the digital lottery must prepare a full H-1B petition.
If a candidate is selected, an employer will have 90 days to file a full petition, including a certified Labor Condition Application and government filing fees. Previously, employers had to prepare a complete H-1B petition for each candidate to participate in the lottery.
The final rule offered a few more details on the payment platform and how it will operate.
The Registration System
DHS will use pay.gov as the payment portal for collecting the $10 registration fee. Operated by the Department of Treasury, pay.gov processes online payments to government agencies by electronic check, credit card or debit.
Petitioners or their representatives will not need to create a pay.gov account to pay the H-1B registration fee. The H-1B registration system will allow petitioners or their representative to pay the fee for multiple registration submitted together. Employers face no limits on the number of H-1B candidates they register or how many registrations submitted at one time.
However, DHS says it has “put several safeguards in place to prevent employers from flooding the H-1B registration system, and will monitor the system throughout the registration process.” Companies and their representatives must attest that they intend to file an H-1B petition for the beneficiary in the position for which the registration is filed.
Employers will only need to be enter their corporate and payment information one time for each batch of H-1B registrations. However, the corporate and payment information will not carry over to subsequent registrations.
According to the final rule, the pay.gov “will not require a separate log in, password, or navigation to a separate website.” USCIS will hold training sessions on using the pay.gov portal, which it will announce on its website.
The $10 registration fee was created to enable USCIS to recover the costs of the registration system and process. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS is funded almost entirely by fees like this one. That means during a federal government shutdown most of USCIS and its services remain available.
It remains unclear whether the $10 fee will cover all costs, including monitoring for fraud and abuse. Moreover, the lower barrier to entry could substantially increase the number of H-1B candidates entered in the annual lottery. That would reduce the likelihood of selection. USCIS may adjust the registration fee after the next review of costs and fee structures.
In addition to the fee, USCIS estimates employers or their representatives will spend about seven minutes to read the registration instructions and make the payment for each candidate.
The Alcorn Method
Becoming a U.S. resident or citizen has become somewhat challenging in recent years. Still, many legal paths exist for you and your employees. The Alcorn Immigraton Law team enjoys the challenge of devising creative strategies to help companies and individuals reach their goals. Reach out to us if you would like a consultation.