U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed that it will require employers and their attorneys to register H-1B lottery applicants in a new online registration system for the 2020 filing season for H-1B specialty occupation visa petitions. The registration period will be open from March 1 to March 20, 2020, with the annual "lottery" conducted shortly thereafter.

Employers must then file complete H-1B petitions only for applicants selected in the lottery. Employers will be required to pay a $10 registration fee for each electronic H-1B registration and will be limited to submitting one registration per candidate applicant.

Similar to past years, hundreds of thousands of applicants are expected to compete for the 85,000 allotment of H-1B visas in FY2021. The annual lottery is capped at 65,000 visas, with an additional 20,000 available for candidates with U.S. master’s degrees or higher.

USCIS’s online registration system will decrease employer costs and labor associated with filing H-1B cap petitions while shifting the H-1B petition preparation phase to the 90-day window after the results of the lottery are announced in early April. H-1B petitions can only be approved for “specialty occupation” positions requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a directly-related, specialized field.

Best Practices for H-1B Visa Petitions in FY2021

To ensure an approvable petition can be submitted for all prospective H-1B candidates, employers should consult with legal counsel regarding both the offered position and employee candidate before the registration period to reduce risk of subsequent denial and to ensure all registered applicants will have a viable path to H-1B status should they be selected in the lottery.

While the registration only requires an employer create an account and submit basic information for each H-1B candidate, any failure to properly screen a prospective case may have adverse effects on employers and candidates. An experienced attorney should perform an initial screening of the prospective H 1B positions and candidates, ensure registrations are submitted correctly and in a timely manner, and provide ongoing guidance to help employers navigate any unforeseen issues that may arise before and during the registration period.

Employers anticipating H-1B registrations should do the following:

  • Compile information pertaining to each prospective H-1B candidate:
    • Job description and degree requirements
    • Worksite location(s)
    • Offered salary
    • Resume
    • Passport ID page of prospective H-1B employee
  • Secure documentation listing the company Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) for account creation
  • Assign one company representative whose email will be used for contact through 2020
  • Contact your attorney for an initial screening