H-1B Lottery Changes Officially Coming in 2020

As 2019 draws to a close and millions of people contemplate their resolutions for the new year, USCIS made good on their promise and announced the implementation of a new H-1B filing process for 2020.  USCIS originally announced the change in early 2019, but delayed implementation.  The new process significantly changes the H-1B petition timeline and requires employers to prioritize foreign national hiring decisions earlier than previous years.

In the past, employers seeking to sponsor foreign nationals for H-1B visas prepared and filed full visa petitions in the first five business days of April in order to be included in the H-1B lottery.  The lottery took place when USCIS received more visa petitions than the Congressionally-mandated 85,000 H-1B annual cap.  After the first five business days in April, USCIS conducted the random lottery, determined the petitions to be selected, and returned those petitions that were not selected.  The lottery took weeks, leaving employers and foreign nationals uncertain about the selection of their petition in the lottery.

Under the new system, employers seeking an H-1B worker will complete an online registration process that requires basic information about the company and each requested worker.  Employers are required to complete a registration for each worker they seek to sponsor for an H-1B.  Each registration requires a $10.00 filing fee.  The lottery will be conducted based on the electronic registrations received by USCIS.  Because the new lottery process is electronic, it has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time employers wait to find out whether petitions have been selected in the lottery.

The new registration process will also drastically change timing considerations for employers evaluating whether to sponsor a foreign national for an H-1B.  In prior years, employers could wait until early March to make a final decision on sponsorship.  The new registration period will be open from March 1, 2020 until March 20, 2020, meaning employers will need to consider several strategic decisions about sponsorship and position details several weeks earlier.  USCIS has promised additional information about the registration process as well as key dates and timelines as the registration period draws closer.

With the new regulatory changes, it is more important than ever to work closely with immigration counsel to determine the optimal immigration strategy and plan as the H-1B filing season arrives.  Burr & Forman’s immigration team routinely handles H-1B filings in a variety of industries.

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