U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has responded to an Aug. 16 letter from business groups that sought information on the new H-1B online registration system and confirmation that the government would be implementing the new system for the upcoming H-1B cap season.

Key points:

  • According to the Sept. 30 response from Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli, USCIS intends to implement the online registration process for the coming cap season for fiscal year 2021 H-1B cap petitions, “subject to continued testing of the system.”
  • Regarding testing the new system, the government conducted a second round of testing in early September and will conduct “further outreach and training” before the tool is implemented to give the public “the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the process.”
  • The agency will publish a notice in the Federal Register to announce initial implementation of the H-1B registration process.

Background: USCIS finalized a regulation in January that introduces a new online registration system for the H-1B lottery. All petitioners will be required to submit an online form for each prospective H-1B beneficiary. USCIS will conduct a lottery and select registrations from that pool, and will then permit successful petitioners to file full H-1B petitions on behalf of each beneficiary named in a selected registration. Though the agency has not provided details about how the registration system will work for this coming cap season, it has taken steps in recent months indicating that it is moving forward with the H-1B registration tool, including proposing a rule last month that will impose a $10 fee for each H-1B registration. USCIS is expected to finalize the fee regulation this fall.

BAL Analysis: Employers should prepare for the upcoming cap season with the expectation that the H-1B online registration system will be implemented. Petitioners will be required to submit their online registrations before April 1 during a registration period that will likely take place between January and March. USCIS will announce the first day of the registration period at least 30 days in advance. It should be noted that the regulation allows the agency to suspend the online registration at any time and revert to the old lottery selection process. BAL is closely monitoring the rollout of the new system and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes 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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