The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released a proposed regulation which would establish an advance registration system for H-1B quota cases. The advanced registration system would only apply to H-1B quota cases and would not apply to H-1B petitions not subject to the quota. The USCIS indicated that it was proposing this new system in order to save U.S. businesses more than $23 million over the next ten years by minimizing administrative burdens and expenses related to H-1B quota petition filings.

Under the proposed system, employers seeking to petition for H-1B workers subject to the H-1B quota would first register certain information electronically with the USCIS. The USCIS indicated that the process would take only 30 minutes to complete. After the electronic registration period ended, the USCIS would then select the number of registrations estimated to exhaust all available visa numbers under the H-1B quota. This selection process would be completed before the H-1B filing period would commence. Employers who then had their registration selected would have to file H-1B petitions with all supporting documentation (including an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) approved by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)) with the USCIS by a certain deadline. It is assumed that the USCIS would allow sufficient time for employers to process the petitions after being selected.

The USCIS emphasized that this is a proposed regulation. The regulation will not go into effect for the fiscal year 2012 H-1B quota which opens on April 1, 2011 (with petitions with start dates of October 1, 2011). Instead, the USCIS will allow a 60 day comment period. The USCIS will then release a final regulation. The USCIS indicated that if the final regulation is published by January 2012, the USCIS could implement the new registration system for the fiscal year 2013 H-1B quota season which would open on April 1, 2012.