The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today posted a final rule, effective April 1, 2019, that introduces an electronic registration requirement for H-1B cap cases but suspends the electronic registration for this year’s H-1B cap season (FY 2020). After considering public feedback, USCIS decided to suspend the electronic registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season to “complete user testing and ensure the system and process are fully functional.” This move will be welcomed by many immigration practitioners, who since the initial announcement of the electronic registration have been concerned whether the registration rollout would be ready and fully tested in time for the fast approaching start of the H-1B FY 2020 filing period on April 1, 2019.
In addition to the electronic registration requirement, the rule changes the order in which H-1B cap cases are selected. Effective April 1, 2019, US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will first select 65,000 H-1B petitions (or registrations, once the registration requirement is implemented) out of all petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries both for the regular and master’s degree cap. USCIS will then select 20,000 petitions from the remaining eligible advance degree exemption (i.e., master’s cap) petitions. This change will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution by an estimated increase of up to 16% (approximately 5,340 workers).
Once implemented, the electronic registration will require petitioners seeking to file H-1B regular and master’s cap petitions to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period. If the registration is selected in the lottery, the petitioner can file the H-1B cap subject petition. USCIS says this “will reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS and petitioners.” USCIS notes that before the electronic registration process is implemented they will publish an announcement, conduct outreach and provide instructions on how to use the system, and will announce the designated electronic registration period at least thirty days in advance for each fiscal year it is required.
USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna says these changes will make the H-1B visa program more effective and efficient and claims by switching the order of selection they are furthering President Trump’s goal of improving the immigration system. He says: “These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better.”