US Citizenship and Immigration Services last week published a final rule that brings changes to the H-1B visa process. One change includes a new electronic registration system for H-1B visas that would require petitioners first to register electronically. Another reverses how H-1B petitions are selected during years when more petitions are received than there are visas available under Congressionally mandated caps.
The agency is set to begin accepting petitions under the caps for 2020 starting April 1. However, the electronic registration system is postponed until after the 2020 federal fiscal year. The agency said the move came after public comments and in order to test the system.
“We were pleased that they had delayed the electronic registration process,” TechServe Alliance CEO Mark Roberts said last week. The organization, which serves as the national trade association of the IT and engineering staffing and solution industry, had earlier issued comments on the changes, and there was concern about the impact of last-minute, untested changes on the H-1B process.
H-1B selection happens when the government receives more petitions in the first week after it starts accepting them than are available under Congressionally mandated caps of 65,000 for all H-1B petitions and 20,000 for just those with master’s degrees or higher.
USCIS holds a lottery to determine who gets an H-1B in that case. Under the change, petitions would be randomly chosen from all available until the 65,000-cap is reached. Then it would randomly choose among those with master’s degrees under the 20,000 cap. It’s the reverse order of what was done in the past, and could result in more workers with higher-level academic degrees getting visas.
USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said the changes are in keeping with President Trump’s goal of improving the immigration system.
“The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency,” Cissna said.
For more on the changes, click here.
In addition, USCIS has resumed its “premium processing” on H-1B petitions for the 2019 federal fiscal year. Premium processing provides for a visa petition to be processed within 15 days.