The Department of Homeland Security has proposed to amend its regulations on petitions filed on behalf of H-1B workers . The rule proposes to require employers seeking to petition for H-1B cap-subject workers to first file electronic registrations with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

USCIS estimated that the proposed rule could save U.S. businesses more than $23 million over the next 10 years by minimizing administrative burdens and related expenses. The agency said the registration system would save employers the effort and expense of filing H-1B petitions, as well as labor condition applications, for workers who would be unable to obtain visas under the statutory cap. USCIS estimated that the registration process would take 30 minutes to complete.

Under the proposed rule, if USCIS anticipates that the H-1B cap will not be reached by the first day upon which H-1B petitions may be filed for a particular fiscal year, USCIS would notify all registered employers that they are eligible to file H-1B petitions on behalf of the beneficiaries named in the selected registrations. USCIS would continue to accept and select registrations until the H-1B cap is reached. On the other hand, if USCIS anticipates that the H-1B cap will be reached by the first day upon which H-1B petitions may be filed for a particular fiscal year, USCIS would close the registration before such date and randomly select a sufficient number of timely filed registrations to meet the applicable cap.

USCIS proposes to allow only those petitioners whose registrations are randomly selected to file H-1B petitions for the cap-subject prospective worker named in the registration. USCIS would create a waitlist containing some or all of the remaining registrations, based on USCIS statistical estimates of how many more registrations may be needed to fill the caps should the initial pool of selected registrations fall short. USCIS would notify the employers of those registrations placed on the waitlist when and if they are eligible to file an H-1B petition. Employers whose registrations were neither randomly selected to file petitions nor placed on the waitlist would receive notification that they were not selected to file petitions in that fiscal year.

Written comments must be submitted by May 2, 2011. This means that the final rule will not take effect until the 2012 H-1B filing season at the earliest.

The proposed rule is available here.

The USCIS announcement is available here.

A related fact sheet is available here.