Earlier this month, USCIS announced that the agency will be implementing an electronic registration process for H-1B cap-subject petitions for the fiscal year 2021 (“FY2021”). This new process will dramatically streamline processing by reducing paperwork and data exchange and will provide overall cost savings to petitioning employers.

“By streamlining the H-1B cap selection process with a new electronic registration system, USCIS is creating cost savings and efficiencies for petitioners and the agency, as only those selected will now be required to submit a full petition [ . . .] the registration system will further the goal of modernizing USCIS from a paper-based to an online-filing agency.” – USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans

In sum, H-1B visas allow US employers to temporarily employ high-skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations. These positions usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specialty field, and range from high-tech workers, accountants, surgeons, teachers, distinguished fashion models, and persons engaged in cooperative research and development projects administered by the US Department of Defense. US employers petition for these workers who, upon approval, receive a temporary 3-year visa that is renewable for up to 6 years.

In the past, employers seeking H-1B workers would file lengthy petitions to USCIS along with ample data collection in a short window of five business days. This system would cost employers thousands of dollars in preparation and filing fees, after which USCIS would select eligible petitions through a random selection process or otherwise “the lottery.” As a result, the agency would receive an immense amount of unnecessary paperwork paid at the petitioning employer’s expense, who would not be guaranteed his petition’s approval.

Under the new process, employers seeking H-1B workers will complete an electronic registration that requires only necessary information about the employer, the foreign worker, and the potential occupation. Electronic registration is required for each candidate for selection in the FY2021 lottery. By implementing this system, employers incur the cost of only $10 associated with the registration fee per candidate, and assuming that the number of registrants exceeds the annual quota of 65,000 for H-1B visas, USCIS will then run a computer-generated lottery on the electronic submissions. Only candidates whose registration is selected in the lottery are authorized to have their employer submit a full H-1B petition on their behalf to the USCIS for adjudication, and only then will candidates be subject to the filing fee of $460 for the request.

USCIS will open an initial registration period from March 1, 2020, through March 20, 2020, and will provide on the website step-by-step instructions for completing the registration process. More information regarding the formal announcement of the implementation of the new registration system, along with additional details on the process, will later be released by the DHS once the initial registration period nears.

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