Changes to the H-1B lottery and New $10 Registration Fee
Department of Homeland Security | DHS.gov
WASHINGTON—On November 7, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a final rule that will require a $10 non-refundable fee for each H-1B registration submitted by petitioning employers, once it implements the electronic registration system. The registration fee is part of an agency-wide effort to modernize and more efficiently process applications to live or work in the United States.
The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.
Upon implementation of the electronic registration system, petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, will first have to electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period, unless the requirement is suspended.
“This effort will help implement a more efficient and effective H-1B cap selection process,” said USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli. “The electronic registration system is part of an agency-wide initiative to modernize our immigration system while deterring fraud, improving vetting procedures and strengthening program integrity.”
In past years, petitioners had to first submit a complete petition to USCIS on or after April 1, and a lottery was conducted after the cap was filled. Petitions that were not selected were mailed back to the petitioner with uncashed filing fees. However, under the new system, employers will first register the names of the employees for which they are submitting a petition on a USCIS web site, beginning at least 14 days before the earliest date that new petitions can be filed, which is April 1. In other words, registration will be likely commence on March 18. There will be a $10 fee for each registration.
Registration will remain open for at least 14 days, after which USCIS will then hold the lottery. Applicants who are successful in the lottery will have 90 days to file the actual H-1B petitions. The petitioners can file any time within the 90-day period, beginning April 1.
While there may be some benefits to this new approach, it remains to be seen whether this new rule will be successfully carried out, and if it will create more benefits than burdens on the employers and applicants.
The final rule, Registration Fee Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens, is effective Dec. 9, 2019, and the fee will be required when registrations are submitted. USCIS is fee-funded, and this non-refundable fee will support the new electronic registration system to make the H-1B cap selection process more efficient for both petitioners and the agency.
USCIS is slated to implement the registration process for the fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap selection process, pending completed testing of the system. The agency will announce the implementation timeframe and initial registration period in the Federal Register once a formal decision has been made, and USCIS will offer ample notice to the public in advance of implementing the registration requirement.
USCIS published a notice of proposed rulemaking highlighting a registration fee on Sept. 4, 2019, which included a 30-day public comment period. USCIS received only 22 comments during that time, and has considered all submissions and offered public responses ahead of announcing the final rule, which is effective on Dec. 9.
The next filing period for H-1B visas will commence on April 1, 2020.
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