Next April’s H-1B season will be different: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed it is rolling out a new digital system for employers to register H-1B beneficiaries in April 2020. Join me on December 6, noon PST, for a webinar updating you on all the latest.
The new system holds great promise for early-stage technology companies. The new system will significantly decrease the overhead needed to sponsor a prospective professional employee from another country. Employers face paying a minor fee of $10 per beneficiary registered in the lottery.
USCIS intends to require employers to use the new electronic registration system for the next H-1B lottery, beginning April 1. It’s important to start thinking about which employees you want to hire now. We’re helping our startup clients keep track of and prepare for registering their H-1B employees. If USCIS implements the system, preparing a full H-1B petition will only be necessary for individuals actually selected in the digital lottery.
We hope USCIS will not need to further delay implementing the system. If USCIS does not implement the system, it’s crucial to have a full petition ready before April 1 as in prior years.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) along with 14 other organizations sent a letter to USCIS Acting Director Kenneth Cuccinelli in August asking for clarification on timing. If USCIS delays the electronic registration system, employers will have to submit a completed H-1B petition when the lottery process opens. Under the new electronic registration system, employers would only need to register all H-1B candidates. Employers would only submit a completed H-1B petition if USCIS selected their H-1B candidate’s name in the lottery.
They requested USCIS “solicit additional participation and feedback from a wide range of interested stakeholders” before implementing the registration system. They also asked for “the opportunity to view the electronic registration portal, and familiarize themselves with it, well in advance of any mandatory registration period.”
In response, Cuccinelli stated that “USCIS intends to implement the registration process for the FY 2021 cap season, subject to continued testing of the system.” The FY 2021 cap season begins on April 1, 2020.
Moreover, Cuccinelli also said USCIS already conducted “usability testing,” which led to an update to the system in early September. He noted USCIS will do further outreach and training and provide guidance on using the system before registration begins. However, Cuccinelli provided no details on when the registration period will begin. And he provided no indication of whether interested stakeholders will get to view the registration portal prior to its rollout.
AILA and the other groups stated in their August letter that “although USCIS has conducted some limited outreach, such engagement was not widely available, nor was it specifically publicized as an opportunity to provide feedback on the H-1B registration tool.”
The New System
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule amending the H-1B lottery process. Although the rule took effect on April 1, 2019, USCIS suspended the electronic registration requirement for this year’s H-1B lottery.
This change will bring significant cost savings to employers, as well as to USCIS. Employers whose H-1B candidates were not selected in the lottery still spend $42.7 million to $66.8 million annually to prepare H-1B petitions. USCIS estimates it will save $1.6 million annually in costs associated with managing nearly 200,000 paper filings.
Last month, USCIS issued a proposal to charge a $10 fee to employers for each H-1B candidate they register. The public comment period for the proposal ended in October.
In its comment, AILA urged USCIS to finalize the electronic registration system and fee no later than November 1. AILA said attorneys and employers need ample time to adjust their H-1B preparations and learn the registration and payment system.
The Alcorn Immigration Law team starts gearing up in December with clients for the annual H-1B lottery in April. With USCIS issuing more Requests for Evidence (RFEs), it’s now more important to start preparing early.
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 or register for the December 6 webinar for the latest H-1B developments. Reach out to us anytime if we can help you plan for the H-1B lottery or formulating backup plans.