Our immigration attorneys explain the new USCIS process for professional workers.
H-1B Cap registration season is almost here. This season is likely to be a wild one, so you, your employer and your immigration attorney need to be ready. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has made some fairly substantial changes to the H-1B process for 2020. Most are designed to simplify the process and could ultimately save employers time and money. However, it will enforce organization on the applicants, sponsors and their legal counsel’s end.
What is H-1B for 2020?
The H-1B visa is the U.S. version of a basic professional work visa. It allows foreign workers to temporarily fill professional occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Most of these occupations are typically in the science, engineering and information technology sectors.
You can’t submit an H-1B visa application. Your employer sponsor must make the application on your behalf.
It’s a popular visa. Almost 200,000 for just 85,000 spots last year. Because so many applicants apply each year, the USCIS implemented a random lottery system to select which H-1B cases they would adjudicate. If an H-1B candidate is selected for the lottery and approved, the H-1B visa allows the candidate to work in the U.S. for up to six years. The initial application allows a three-year stay, which can then be extended for an additional three years.
Here is what you need to know about the new process.
Electronic Registration For the Lottery Opens March 1
A new electronic registration system for the lottery opens on March 1 and remains open until March 20. Employers pay a non-refundable fee of $10 to register their applicants online. Unlike the old process, the initial electronic registration requires very basic information. It does, however, require applicants to have a my USCIS account set up for payment and submission.
Notifications to registrants will be sent electronically by March 31 whether they have been selected. Once selected in the initial lottery, applicants submit a full application, including all relevant supporting materials.
Registrations that are not selected are retained for the rest of the fiscal year just in case they are needed to fill any gaps in regular and advanced degree exemption caps.
April 1 – The 90 Day Race for Documentation
For those who are selected, this is where things can get tricky. Although the registration process doesn’t require more than basic information, your immigration attorney may request details about wages, titles and job duties as well as a passport and evidence of an advanced degree to avoid submitting a non-qualifying petition.
Even if your attorney doesn’t require this information, sponsors and applicants are need to start gathering the necessary documents early in the process.
Sponsors of selected registrations have 90 days to submit full H-1B petitions, including a Labour Condition Application (LCA). This process is expecting to open on April 1, immediately after registrants are notified.
Employers who wait until their registrants are officially selected may face a serious time crunch getting this information gathered and delivered to their lawyer and then submitted via the electronic system. Keep in mind, your attorney may require additional information to help you avoid additional requests for evidence (RFE) from USCIS or the Department of Labour (DOL).
H-1B 2020 Tips For Getting Ahead of the Process
Register Early and Apply Early – Historically, the cap has been reached very quickly in the process. Electronic registration and the minimal fee attached to it may accelerate this. The fact that this is a new electronic system also increases the risk of additional problems or delays. With
Gather Data and Documents – Even though these are not required until a registrant has “won” the lottery process, ensure you have everything in place and ready to go so your attorney can file the necessary information quickly.
Consider Multiple Filings – Filing with multiple employers if you have multiple offers can increase your chances. It’s important to note, however, that one employer (or related entities) cannot submit several applications on your behalf. Employers can, however, submit for multiple individual employees.
Premium Processing – This won’t give you an edge in the process, but it will, for a fee, provide you with a quick decision regarding your petition. Again, this allows you to time to respond.
Review Your Paperwork with Your Immigration Attorney – Given the competitive nature of the H-1B process, you want to be sure it is done right. An experienced immigration attorney can help you navigate this complicated process and improve your chances of a successful application.
Our attorneys have extensive experience in securing H-1B Visas, and we are currently filing all lottery registrations for free. Check out some frequently asked questions about H-1B 2020 visas. Contact us for a free initial consultation or if you have questions on the upcoming H-1B lottery.