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USCIS Previews H-1B Cap Registration System

In a webinar for employer stakeholders held today, USCIS presented the new H-1B cap registration system, which will be in effect for the FY 2021 cap season. Key elements of the registration and petition process are addressed below. USCIS’s slide presentation from today’s employer webinar is available on the agency’s website.  

Employers Must Set Up Registration Accounts

Employers will need to create a cap registration account for each Employer Identification Number (EIN) entity that will sponsor beneficiaries for the FY 2021 cap season. An employer account is necessary whether the organization will work with immigration counsel to submit registrations or will submit registrations on its own behalf.

Employer accounts can be created at beginning on February 24, 2020 and until the H-1B cap registration period closes on March 20, 2020. To set up an account, each entity must provide:

  • the legal name of the sponsoring entity;
  • the Doing Business As (DBA) name of the organization, if any;
  • the entity’s EIN number;
  • the primary office address of the sponsoring entity; and
  • the name, job title, email address and phone number for the company employee who will serve as authorized signatory for the sponsoring organization.

If the organization will be represented by immigration counsel during the registration process, they will be able to associate the organization’s account with its attorneys’ accounts at a later stage of the registration process.

Cap Registration Starts on March 1, 2020

USCIS will open the cap registration period on Sunday, March 1, 2020 at noon ET. Employers and their immigration counsel can begin to draft and submit cap registrations at this time; the USCIS system will not accept drafts or registrations before March 1.

The registration period will close on March 20, 2020 at noon ET. All registrations for the FY 2021 cap must be submitted by this time. Late registrations will not be accepted.

Employers will be able to include up to 250 beneficiaries in a single registration submission. There is no limit on the number of registrations an employer can submit.

The Registration Period

Between March 1 and March 20, 2020, employers and their counsel will need to draft, review and sign each registration submission. Once immigration counsel has drafted a registration, the USCIS system will generate a passcode that the organization will use to review, approve and electronically sign the registration. If the organization approves the registration, the counsel will sign it electronically, submit it, and pay the registration fee of $10 per beneficiary.

The H-1B Cap Lottery

After the registration period closes on March 20, USCIS will conduct two 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 and will select enough registrations to meet the advanced-degree cap exemption of 20,000.

USCIS plans to notify employers and immigration counsel of winning registrations by March 31, 2020.  Employers and counsel will receive USCIS emails notifying them that the status of their registration(s) has changed; they will then need to log into the USCIS system to see the selection status of each registered beneficiary. 

For each winning beneficiary, USCIS will provide a selection notice that must be printed out and submitted with the cap petition for the beneficiary. The selection notice is valid for the named beneficiary only; employers cannot substitute beneficiaries.

The Cap Petition Filing Period

USCIS will begin to accept cap petitions for winning beneficiaries on April 1, 2020. The petition filing period will close no earlier than June 30, 2020. 

Employers can file their petitions at any time during the filing period, but some cases might need to be filed early in the period. For example, an F-1 student with an optional practical training (OPT) employment authorization document (EAD) that expires on May 15 must have their cap petition filed before that date to ensure cap-gap work authorization benefits through the October 1 start date of their cap petition.

In the coming weeks, USCIS is expected to announce whether premium processing will be available during the FY 2021 H-1B cap petition filing period.

What Employers Should Do Now

In addition to identifying their H-1B cap needs for FY 2021, employers should work to set up employer registration accounts starting February 24, and plan for review and approval of registrations during the March 1-20 registration period. Employers should also begin to gather supporting documentation and information required for H-1B cap petitions. Advance preparation can minimize the risk of delay during the busy registration and petition filing periods.

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