U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the final H-1B electronic registration fee rule today and released a pre-publication version of the rule. The official final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. The rule becomes effective Dec. 9 and contains several details and clarifications in response to public comments submitted during the notice and comment period.

Key points:

  • Implementation time frame. The agency plans to implement the H-1B electronic registration system for the upcoming cap season, subject to continued testing of the system. If implemented as planned, the agency will announce it in a Federal Register notice “as soon as possible” and “with plenty of notice” about the implementation time frame of the registration system and the initial registration period. Earlier this week, USCIS acting director Ken Cuccinelli indicated in comments at an immigration conference that the agency will decide by the end of next month whether the system will be introduced this upcoming cap season.
  • Amount of the fee. Petitioners will be required to pay $10 to register each prospective H-1B candidate. The amount represents an estimated $2 million or more in revenue per year, depending on the number of registrations, and is intended to subsidize the costs of the registration system.
  • Payment of fees. Registration fees must be paid through pay.gov, but it will not be necessary to open a pay.gov account. The system will permit petitioners or their immigration attorneys to pay from a bank account (ACH payment), credit card, or debit card. No ACH fee will be charged. Cash, certified checks and money orders will not be accepted.
  • Bundled payments. Registration fees may be bundled and paid in batches, and the system will also allow multiple bundled payments to be made over the course of the registration period. The employer’s information will only need to be entered once for each batch of payments, but if subsequent payments are made thereafter, the information will need to be entered again.

Additional details: Although the rule for the H-1B registration fee has been finalized, two additional regulations need to be finalized before implementation that cover the H-1B registration tool and revisions to Form I-129 Petition for Alien Worker. Both proposals are still in their public comment period, which ends tomorrow.

BAL Analysis: The final H-1B registration fee rule is another indication that USCIS aims to introduce the electronic registration system in coming months for FY 2021 cap filings. Employers should anticipate that the system will be in place for the upcoming cap season, and, if so, the mandatory registration period would likely start in early 2020. An implementation time frame, including a designated registration period, would be announced in an upcoming Federal Register notice. BAL is closely monitoring the rollout of the H-1B registration system and will continue to provide updates as information become available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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