Bloomberg Law: “High-Stakes Lottery for H-1B Visas May Become Simpler Next Year”

by Joseph McKeown

L. Francis Cissna, director of US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), has announced that the agency is making plans to simplify the H-1B visa lottery program beginning in 2019 for the 2020 fiscal year. These changes would potentially include an employer’s ability to preregister electronically for the H-1B lottery and, if selected in the lottery, file the H-1B petition with USCIS, instead of submitting full petitions before the lottery is completed. Cissna tells Bloomberg Law that he hopes that the agency will implement changes in time for when H-1B cases can be filed in April 2019, although the agency may not have sufficient time to do so. "[Y]ou don’t have to file and go through the hassle and effort and cost of preparing a full-blast petition,” Cissa says, touting the benefit of preregistration. “I think that’s a lot easier than the current situation.”

Along with this, Cissna says that it is a “top priority” for the agency to transition to electronic submissions by 2020 and hopes that these changes will make the overall process easier for both employers and the agency moving forward. Cissna says: “Indeed, we’re so certain it’s going to happen that we’re already planning for the electronic environment.”

In the same interview with Bloomberg Law, Cissna speaks about other possible reforms to the H-1B program based on President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which directs agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Cissna says: “There may be ways that we could by regulation achieve, to a certain degree, that goal…If we can see a way to do something lawfully that permits us to achieve that goal, OK, then we’ll propose it. We’re not going to propose something [that] we created out of thin air or based on some spurious authority that doesn’t exist.”