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USCIS Announces Preliminary Details on H-1B Cap Registration for FY 2021, Though Questions Remain

USCIS formally announced details of its H-1B cap registration process for fiscal year 2021 in Thursday’s Federal Register, though important details are still unknown. The announcement confirms the dates of the registration period as March 1 through March 20, 2020 and provides some additional details on the new registration process. It does not, however, provide information on how and when employers and their counsel may create online accounts in order to complete registration, a key step in preparing for H-1B cap registration.

As previously announced, the new H-1B registration requirement requires employers seeking to file H-1B cap cases to first register online in order to enter the H-1B lottery. Employers will then be permitted to file full H-1B petitions for registrations that are selected in the lottery, during a filing period of at least 90 days. A $10 non-refundable registration fee will be required for each H-1B cap registration at the time of submission. Batch registrations and payments will be accepted in the online portal.

Setting up USCIS registration accounts

To file H-1B cap registrations, it is anticipated that employers and their counsel will need to set up accounts in the USCIS filing system. The agency will announce on its website the date that employers and their representatives may start setting up online registration accounts for the coming cap season. The timeframe for setting up accounts will start before the registration period opens and will continue through the registration period.  

USCIS is expected to use the existing site for account set-up and H-1B registration, though the procedures for H-1B cap season could differ from the existing online application filing process.

In the coming weeks, USCIS is expected to issue detailed instructions on setting up registration accounts as well as to conduct public outreach on the registration process in general.

Registration period expected to run March 1 to March 20, 2020

Consistent with USCIS’s prior website announcement, the initial H-1B cap registration period is expected to run from March 1, 2020 through March 20, 2020.

USCIS intends to announce the actual registration end date on its website. The cap registration regulation gives the agency the authority to extend the registration period if, for example, there are system issues, or in the unlikely event that it does not receive enough registrations initially to meet the annual quotas. Employers should anticipate that registration will end on March 20 unless advised otherwise.

Registration selection and petition filing

USCIS will use a lottery process to choose enough registration beneficiaries to meet the annual H-1B cap of 85,000. The agency intends to notify petitioners of the beneficiaries selected in the lottery no later than March 31, 2020.

The agency will send electronic selection notices to petitioning employers. The selection notice will confirm that the petitioner may file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of the foreign national named in the notice.

As required by law, the petition filing period will be open for at least 90 days. USCIS is expected to announce the exact dates of the petition filing period in the coming weeks. It is anticipated that the petition filing period will begin on April 1, 2020, shortly after petitioners are notified of H-1B registration selection.   

What this means for petitioners and applicants

Employers and foreign nationals should continue to prepare for the upcoming cap season by notifying KMHI staff about potential to identify and gather information on prospective H-1B employees.

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