In an effort to make the process for registering for the H-1B cap easier, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that the new electronic registration process will be available in the new year.
The announcement follows months of testing the online portal and its usability to try to make it as easy for applicants as possible. This new electronic registration process came into being after an announcement in January, 2019 that the USCIS would be moving to electronic processing to reduce the reliance on paper.
With the amount of H-1B applicants on the rise, the US government is also working to make sure that the best candidates are coming to the US. This means that the lottery is weighted towards applicants who have post-graduate degrees. This way, the government feels that only the most qualified people will join the workforce.
There are concerns revolving around how much the new process will really save employers who submit petitions. They will still need to have all of the information needed for a full petition, even before they submit their initial registrations in March. This is because after they are selected, they still must submit a completed registration. It is unclear what happens if a petitioner does not complete their second admission on time. In addition, there is no word as to what happens if the nature of the job changes from March to the second registration deadline.
Another question that’s being raised is how well will the USCIS handle the implementation. With such an easy path to submitting the initial application, there is the potential for more applications than expected to be submitted. The test that the USCIS has done has been based on having 200,000 applications. If significantly more applications are processed, it could cause delays, or even cause the submission tool itself to crash. There are many unknowns to what might happen, which can create confusion and concern on the part of potential registrants and their attorneys.
Here are some FAQs that can help clear up some of the confusion when it comes to the implementation of the new H1B electronic registration tool.
When does this New H1B Visa Lottery (Registration) system go into effect?
Originally, the intent was for the online tool to be in place by April of 2019, but that date proved to be too ambitious. As a result, the plan was amended to allow for further testing and a delayed implementation date.
Now, with the 2020 registration period coming up, the first H1-B applicants who qualify through using the online tool will start work for the 2020 fiscal year.
When will the Registration Period Open?
The first registration period will be open from March 1st to March 20th, 2020. The electronic submission process is aimed at streamlining the current process, which is completely paper-based and takes up a lot of time and effort on the part of the petitioners and the USCIS.
The USCIS had been testing out the online submission process leading up to the announcement. It took feedback and made adjustments to the system to make sure that it was as user-friendly as possible. There will be further adjustments made after getting information from the initial registration period as well.
The USCIS will also provide training and conduct outreach efforts prior to the March 1st registration opening to ensure that interested parties have all the information they need to seamlessly pivot to using the new process. This will include providing detailed instructions on their website, along with important dates and other information. This will also allow petitioners to prepare everything they need before going online to submit.
The agency has also stated that if they do not receive enough registrations during the opening implementation, it will continue accepting applications after March 20th until the cap has been reached.
For those who register during the initial period, there are some things to remember when using the electronic submission system. For one, petitioners and representatives will no longer be able to submit using any other means. They must use the online portal. Each alien must have a separate submission as well. After all of the registrations have been received and processed, the USCIS will choose a random number of projected registrations through a lottery system until the cap is reached. That cap is currently set at 65,000 H-B1 visas, with an additional 20,000 visas set aside for those foreign workers who have a postgraduate degree from an educational institution in the U.S. At that point, those who were selected will be able to file a cap-subject registration.
This helps employers save both time and effort. Currently, they have to file an entire registration petition that requires a lot of preparation and effort for every alien they wish to register. Invariably, even after filling out a large amount of paper-work, some of those applications are denied. With the electronic lottery system, they can apply for the lottery, and then only fill out complete petitions if their initial application is randomly selected. The USCIS has committed to having those initial selections made no later than March 31st of 2020.
What Information is Required to Complete the Registration?
By using an online portal, petitioners can submit a small amount of information initially, and if their petition is selected, they can then continue on with a full registration petition. For an initial submission, the petitioner will need to provide the legal and business names of the company, their employer identification number, and their primary address.
They will also need to provide the information of a signatory to represent the company. Information for the registrant that is needed includes their legal name, date and country of birth, citizenship, and proof of a post-secondary degree. For each electronic submission, the petitioner must pay a $10 fee.
Who can use the H-1B Visa Tool?
An H-1B visa is designed for employers to bring in temporary workers from foreign countries who have specialized knowledge. The applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have the requisite knowledge through their work or education histories. This means having at least a bachelor’s degree in most cases.
The visa has a timeframe of 3 years, however it can be extended to a maximum of 6 years. An H-1B has a much faster application period than a green card. This makes it popular for employers who need someone sooner rather than later, since the process can take as little as six months. It is also beneficial to foreign workers who may not want to fully immigrate to the United States.
That said, someone in the U.S. on an H-1B visa is eligible to apply for a green card while still in the country.
Can the H1B Visa applicant self-register using the online tool?
An H-1B application must come from the employer as opposed to the potential worker seeking an H1-B visa. This is because the employer must demonstrate the need for the worker, as well as demonstrate how the job is specialized. For a job to qualify as specialized, it must involve knowledge that can only be gained through a bachelor’s degree or higher.
We highly recommend that you do not attempt to self-register, but work with qualified legal experts who are nuanced at matters pertaining to the intricacies of US immigration law. Schedule an appointment with us to tell us your case to see if we are a good fit.
Is it possible to register multiple times by the same employer?
While the intent of the new registration system is to save time and effort, the fact is that there are still some concerns among immigration lawyers. While the ability to submit only basic information for the preliminary registration is seen as a good thing, it can still open the system up to unequal opportunities for petitioners.
The tech industry, in particular, is known for having a lot of H-1B applications. In fact, they are the primary reason that a lottery is necessary. The demand for H-1B workers has gotten so high that the USCIS cannot accommodate everyone.
The new H-1B system will be in effect for all registration periods thereafter. Once a petitioner is required to register after being selected from the initial registration period, they must file their final petition with the same alien for whom they had registered in the first place. They are not allowed to switch the name of the applicant.
They also cannot submit the same beneficiary twice during the online submission period. Any duplicates will be disregarded and will not provide a way to have better odds during the random selection phase.
Can Multiple Employer’s Complete Registration for the same beneficiary?
Unfortunately, at this time it seems that this is possible. The system does not seem to currently have a way to weed out duplicate registrations for the same beneficiary from different employers, even though it can do so if the same employer submitted more than once for the same beneficiary.
This could be an issue if several staffing agencies under the same corporate umbrella submitted registrations for one beneficiary, thereby upping their chances of being chosen in the lottery.
How to prevent multiple H1B Visa Lottery registrations from the same applications via multiple staffing companies?
At this time, it is unknown what the USCIS can put in place to prevent these situations from occurring. The best option is an algorithm that compares several personal details of each beneficiary to detect if there are any possible duplicates. It’s more difficult when dealing with foreign workers since an SSN is not required.
Why is the Social Security Number not required under Beneficiary Information?
A social security number is not required because foreign workers do not have SSNs before they start working.
Would the $10 H1B Visa Lottery Pre-Registration fee prevent duplicate filings?
Since the cost to register is only $10, a large tech company could flood the system with petitions in the hopes that a certain number will be selected. They can afford to be less discerning with who is selected, since they would all perform similar jobs.
With the relatively low cost, and the ease of making a preliminary application, a large firm can hold an advantage over other smaller businesses. For instance, a small tech startup may want only one worker, but their initial application could get drowned out by a flood of applications from the larger firms. That means that they could be left short and without the help they need, and be left scrambling to find talent to compete.
To fight these practises, the USCIS has also implemented other rules that will attempt to curb applications that serve no purpose other than to flood the registration listings. For one, while the initial application process requires less information than the full registration process, it still requires enough information that a petitioner cannot simply send out one application after another with the click of a mouse. There is a sufficient amount of information needed to reduce the risk of a small number of employers overwhelming the registration system.
If you or your employer wish to consult with one of our legal experts regarding your H1-B visa process and electronic registration, please fill out this brief form to tell us your case.