The Alcorn Immigration Law team’s H-1B season began in December. Since then, we’ve been working with employers preparing H-1B visa applications for the April lottery. Given the increased scrutiny, requests for evidence (RFEs), and denials these applications face, employers and H-1B candidates should focus on assembling the strongest petition they can.
Delays, uncertainty about visa and green card petitions, and increased employee recruiting and retention costs are the new normal under the Trump administration. Our team knows what to expect when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews H-1B petitions. We have maintained our success rate in winning H-1B visas even as USCIS shifts its review standards and issues more denials.
Don’t Miss These Free Webinars!
I’ll present the latest developments regarding H-1B visa and other immigration options at the following webinars:
- “What Every Startup Needs to Know About Immigration” on Feb. 13, at noon Pacific Time. This webinar is sponsored by Early Growth Financial Services.
- “Latest H-1B Updates for Tech & Biotech in Silicon Valley” on Friday, Feb. 15, 1:00 pm Pacific Time. Alcorn partner and business immigration expert Mary Grilli Jacobs and I will discuss current trends, new regulations, and how to set up your H-1B petitions for the best chance of success. We’ll also answer your questions at this Alcorn Immigration Law-sponsored webinar.
Changes to the Lottery
USCIS has finalized two changes to the H-1B lottery process that it proposed last year. The new rule will be in place by April 1, when this year’s H-1B lottery process begins. However, USCIS is delaying one of the changes until the lottery in 2020.
For this year’s lottery, USCIS will change the order in which H-1B petitions are selected. USCIS will randomly select 65,000 H-1B petitions from those submitted between April 1 and the date that USCIS stops accepting petitions. Those petitions for specialty workers with a master’s or higher degree from an accredited U.S. institution will then be subject to a second random selection process in which 20,000 will be selected. Previously, 20,000 petitions from candidates with master’s or higher degrees from accredited U.S. institution of higher education were selected first.
USCIS expects that changing the order of the random selection processes will increase the number of H-1B candidates with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution by 16%, or 5,340 workers.
For next year’s lottery, USCIS will require employers to electronically pre-register for the lottery. Only those pre-registered employers selected in the lottery would submit a complete H-1B petition within 60 days of selection. Currently, employers must submit a complete H-1B petition when the lottery process opens. To allow for testing of the pre-registration system, USCIS will roll out the pre-registration process for next year’s lottery. Therefore, all employers should prepare their H-1B petitions as usual.
Alcorn Dates to Remember
Given the arduous and time-intensive process of preparing H-1B petitions, we have set deadlines for employers seeking our assistance.
Employers seeking to sponsor a foreign worker for an H-1B visa must first submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) for certification by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). An LCA requires an employer to prove to the DOL that no qualified U.S. workers are available for the position that the employer is looking to fill with a foreign employee. USCIS will not accept an H-1B petition without a certified LCA.
However, before filing an LCA, employers must have their Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) registered and verified by DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
Employers that need to have their FEIN verified have until March 4 to retain our services. Employers that have filed LCAs before–and therefore, already have their FEIN registered–have until March 11 to retain our services. After those dates, we will charge an additional fee for expedited services.
After March 14, the Alcorn Immigration Law team will only be accepting clients needing assistance with H-1B petitions for the April lottery on a case-by-case basis.
USCIS has resumed premium processing for all pending H-1B petitions that were selected in last year’s lottery—and are under review. Technically, H-1B candidates with petitions selected in last year’s lottery could start working on Oct. 1. However, many of these petitions remain under review.
Under premium processing, petitioners can pay an extra fee to have USCIS decide their visa petition within 15 days. Without premium processing, an H-1B petitioner could wait 9.5 months or more for a decision. Employers who have received RFEs for these petitions selected in last year’s lottery and wish to request premium processing can do so with their RFE response.
USCIS plans to resume premium processing when its backlog sufficiently drops.
Reach out to the Alcorn Immigration Law team if we can help you with your H-1B petition. We can also help strategize a back-up plan in the event USCIS does not select your H-1B petition.