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What 2019 Could Have in Store for H-1B Visas

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on February 15, 2019

Employers in Illinois that anticipate needing highly skilled foreign workers may be affected by proposed changes to the H-1B visa process that would require applicants to register before submitting an H-1B visa application. The changes apply to applications made under the regular cap program as well as the advanced degree exemption. The changes include a new requirement for pre-registration as well as changes to the selection process.

Pre-Registration Requirement

One of the proposed requirements would apply to employers who are subject to the H-1B cap. The employers would need to register each of the petitions that they intend to file within a specific time period electronically with the USCIS instead of filing complete packets directly with the agency. The initial registration period would begin at least 14 days before the April 1 filing date for H-1B petitions.

The USCIS would then determine whether it has received enough registrations to meet the annual cap. If it has not, it will then notify all of the employers who register that they can submit their H-1B petitions. If the cap has been reached, the USCIS will close the registration and randomly select registrants to submit H-1B petitions. After the process has been completed for the regular cap, the USCIS would then look at whether there are enough registrants to meet advanced degree exemption of 20,000 per year. If it has, a computer would randomly select registrants to submit petitions for the advanced degree exemption. If it has not, the USCIS would notify all of the registrants that they could file petitions under the advanced degree exemption.

Only the registrants that have been selected will be allowed to submit H-1B petitions that are subject to the cap. Employers that have registered multiple petitions might be selected to submit some petitions while not being selected to submit others. Registrants that are not selected will stay on reserve for the fiscal year in the event that the USCIS decides to open up the process.

Changes to the Selection Process

The USCIS would first exhaust its regular cap for H-1B applicants. After the regular cap is reached, the USCIS would then begin selecting registrants under the advanced degree exemption. The USCIS states that the agency believes that the changes will lead to more workers that have Master’s degrees or higher to be selected during the regular cap process.