The H-1B Visa Electronic Registration Period is Now Officially Open: Don’t Miss Your Chance to Apply for this Highly Coveted Working Visa!

By: Brittany M. Milliasseau

One of the most common U.S. working visas is the H-1B visa. An H-1B visa allows a foreign national to live and work in the U.S. for a specified period of time. Typically, an H-1B visa holder is admitted for a three year period, with an opportunity to extend for an additional three years.

In order to obtain H-1B status, a foreign national must be sponsored by a U.S. employer for a position that is considered a “specialty occupation.” A “specialty occupation” is an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor’s degree. Certain positions that may qualify as specialty occupations include engineers, teachers, physicians, lawyers, and architectures, however this is not an exhaustive list and a variety of positions in many different industries may qualify. Determining whether a position may be considered a specialty occupation requires a careful analysis of the job description, position requirements, and the nature of the business among other factors.

Even if a foreign national has a prospective employer willing to employ him or her in a specialty occupation, it is not a guarantee that the applicant will be able to secure an H-1B visa. The yearly number of H-1B visas allocated by Congress is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 allocated for individuals who have earned a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university. Typically, there are far many more H-1B petitions submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which has created the need for a computer-generated random selection process, or “H-1B lottery” system. In previous years, H-1B employers were required to submit complete H-1B petitions to USCIS during the first week of April. This resulted in USCIS receiving thousands of H-1B petitions. Once the numerical cap was reached, USCIS conducted a lottery, and only those petitions selected in the H-1B lottery were reviewed and adjudicated. Unselected petitions were returned. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently created a new rule that went into effect for the first time during this year’s H-1B cycle. Under the new process, employers wishing to file H-1B cap petitions will first need to electronically register with USCIS and pay a $10 fee for each electronic registration.

On March 1, 2020, USCIS officially began accepting electronic registrations. The electronic registration form requires petitioning organizations to provide basic information such as company name, address, employer identification number, and contact information of the authorized signatory. In addition, the electronic registration form requires information about the beneficiary such as name, gender, date of birth, country of birth, country of citizenship, passport number, as well as whether the beneficiary has a U.S. master’s degree for consideration under the advanced degree exemption (“U.S. Master’s Cap”). It is important to note that the initial registration period will close on March 20, 2020. All H-1B registrations that are submitted during the initial registration period will be included in the lottery.

Once the initial registration period closes, USCIS will begin the initial selection process and will run the lottery on the submitted electronic registrations if USCIS determines that it has received more than enough registrations to satisfy the numerical limitation. Selected registrants should be notified no later than March 31, 2020 and employers will have a 90-day filing period to submit the full H-1B petition to USCIS.

Because this is the first year that the H-1B electronic registration process is being used, it is more important than ever to make sure that you are represented by knowledgeable and highly competent immigration counsel who can guide you through the appropriate steps and ensure that the electronic registration is properly submitted. A mistake in the registration process could be detrimental. If you are interested in obtaining an H-1B visa, it is important to act now as the electronic registration period will be closing before you know it. Speak with an experienced immigration attorney today for more information on the electronic registration process as well as to explore whether an H-1B visa is the most suitable option for you or your company.