The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will delay the effective date of its H-1B cap allocation rule to December 31, 2021, according to a forthcoming announcement in the Federal Register. The final rule, which was to take effect on March 9, 2021, would have replaced the random, computerized H-1B cap lottery with a system that allocates H-1B visa numbers according to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) four-level wage system. It would give priority in the H-1B selection process to foreign nationals whose offered salary falls in the highest wage level for their occupation and geographic area.
This announcement follows the request from the White House on January 21st for a regulatory freeze asking federal agencies to consider delaying published rules that had not already taken effect. DHS says that it intends to work through the technical, training and outreach issues associated with implementation of the final rule, while evaluating the rule and its associated policies from a substantive perspective.
Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 22) H-1B Cap Season
The delay of this rule to December 31, 2021 means that the existing random, computerized H-1B cap selection system will remain in place for this year’s cap season. The H-1B cap lottery will follow a cap registration period this March.
As it did last year, USCIS will conduct two random lotteries to select enough beneficiaries to meet the 85,000 annual cap. The first lottery will include all registered beneficiaries and will select enough registrations to meet the regular cap of 65,000. The second lottery will include registered U.S. advanced-degree holders who were not chosen in the first lottery. It would select enough registrations to meet the advanced-degree cap exemption of 20,000. USCIS is expected to receive far more H-1B cap registrations than needed to meet the annual quota of 85,000.
USCIS has not yet released the start and end dates for the FY 22 H-1B cap registration period.
What’s next for the rule
The H-1B cap wage allocation rule is currently scheduled to take effect on December 31, 2021. DHS has committed to further substantive review of the Trump-era regulation, but the Biden Administration has expressed support for the concept of H-1B cap allocation based on wage level. It is possible that prior to its effective date, the allocation regulation will be challenged in federal court as contrary to the H-1B lottery statute.