USCIS Announces New H-1B Registration Process Starting March 1, 2020

On December 6, 2019, USCIS announced that it is implementing an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to submit H-1B cap-subject petitions. Employers seeking to file FY2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay an associated $10 fee for each electronic registration they submit to USCIS. The registration process now commences a month earlier, on March 1. This a a change from prior years in which applicants applied starting April 1, and often waited up to four months to find out if their application was selected in the lottery, causing great stress and costs to applicants and their employers in the meantime.

Per USCIS, under this new process, employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the cap, or their authorized representatives, will complete a registration process that will require only basic information about their company and each requested worker. USCIS announced that the initial registration period will start on March 1, 2020. Employers and their representatives will be able to set up required registration accounts prior to March 1. USCIS intends to close the initial registration period on March 20, 2020, and will announce the actual end date of the initial registration period on its website. USCIS will then run a random selection process on those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. If an applicant is selected, he or she will then prepare an H-1B application, including an I-129 form and supporting evidence, to file as soon as possible after selection.

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Changes to the H-1B lottery and New $10 Registration Fee

WASHINGTON—On November 7, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a final rule that will require a $10 non-refundable fee for each H-1B registration submitted by petitioning employers, once it implements the electronic registration system. The registration fee is part of an agency-wide effort to modernize and more efficiently process applications to live or work in the United States.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.

Upon implementation of the electronic registration system, petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, will first have to electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period, unless the requirement is suspended.

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How to Obtain Temporary Training or Employment in the United States as a Foreign Physician

Foreign physicians looking to advance their specialized careers in the United States can gain valuable experience and connections by working a physicians or fellows.

Generally, there are two visa classification options available to foreign physicians seeking temporary employment or training in the United States: (1) the J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program, and (2) the H-1B Specialty Occupation classification. Each of these classifications has unique requirements and benefits, but both require that the applicant demonstrate that he or she has obtained the required licenses and training necessary to practice in both the United States and the specific state of intended practice.

  1. J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR PHYSICIAN PROGRAM

The J-1 Exchange Visitor Physician Program permits foreign physicians and medical graduates to participate in U.S. graduate medical education programs or training at accredited U.S. schools of medicine.  However, the J-1 classification does not permit full employment as a physician in the United States because the program focuses on providing graduate medical education or training in a specialty or sub-specialty occupation. Therefore, the J-1 is best suited to a foreign physician or medical graduate that wishes to gain additional education or clinical training at a United States-based institution.

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Cap on H-1B Visas for FY 2020 Reached Within 5 Days

Each year, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants 85,000 H-1B visas to applicants in “specialty occupations”. This cap has not increased since 2004, and has been greatly outweighed by demand over the last few years. Within the first five days of the 2020 fiscal year application filing period, which started on April 1, 2019, the cap was reached, as 201,011 petitions were received by April 5. This marks a 5% increase in petitions from the previous year.

Immigration legal experts at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) have lamented that the limitation on the supply of high-skilled foreign workers is detrimental to continued economic growth of the U.S. economy. H-1B visa holders and applicants are filling a critical and ever-growing void in the U.S. economy by providing needed expertise, particularly in the Information Technology (IT) and tech development industries. Without meeting the demand for these talented foreign professionals, future growth and innovation are stifled.

Even as the economy and labor demand has continued to grow in the past several years, the maximum accepted applications has remained steady for the past sixteen years. The number of applicants has surpassed the numerical cap of 85,000 for the past seven years. The next opportunity to apply for an H-1B visa is April 1, 2020, which would have a job start date of October 1, 2020 or later, depicting on when a decision is reached on an applicant’s case.

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When Is the Best Time to Apply for an H-1B Employee Visa?

H-1B visaThe most highly anticipated visa of the year begins its application season in Q1 2019. The coveted H-1B visa allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in jobs that are “specialty occupation” positions, which involve the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.  H-1B visa holders often possess STEM degrees, such as jobs in fields such as science, engineering, logistics, and information technology.  To apply for an H-1B visa, the applicant must have a bona fide job offer from a U.S. employer, a Bachelor’s Degree or higher in their specific specialty or its equivalent, and meet the other requirements of the visa.

The H-1B visa is valid for three years, with an optional three-year extension, and provides the employee with the opportunity to apply for a Green Card if sponsored by the employer.  Accordingly, because the H-1B visa can last for 6 years (and even longer under some circumstances), the H-1B visa is one of the most popular ways for foreign professionals obtain a work visa, and ultimately, a Green Card in the United States. 

US FlagAs H-1B applications require a third-party academic credential evaluation of foreign degrees and the processing of a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor before an applicant is eligible to file an H-1B application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), H-1B applications can take 2-4 months to prepare.  Therefore, a prudent applicant will begin his or her application preparation in December or January because it can take several months to get documentation prepared and signed by the employer, obtain important documents from third parties, and have the application prepared by an attorney. Continue reading

Will the H-1B Lottery Change in 2019?

H-1B visaIn an attempt to change the lottery system for H-1B applications, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule that would require all H-1B petitioners to pre-register online for the H-1B lottery prior to submitting their H-1B filings. According to the proposed rule, only those H-1B petitions that have been selected in the lottery could then be submitted for the adjudication by USCIS. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), which is the first step toward implementing such changes.

Other proposed changes would benefit applicants with Master’s Degrees by adding them to the initial round of 65,000 Bachelor’s Degree applicant visa spots lottery.  Then, if there are any Master’s Degree applications left over after the initial lottery round, the remaining Master’s Degree applications will be added to the lottery for the remaining 20,000 Master’s Degree cap. Continue reading

Now is the Time to Start Preparing Your H-1B Visa Application

enter-usa-h1b-visaThe H-1B visa is one of the most popular ways for foreign professionals in specialty occupations to obtain a work visa, and even a Green Card in the United States.  A successful H-1B application requires sponsorship by the professional’s employer, and can be granted for three years, with one additional three-year renewal. The H-1B allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, and requires a Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent.

Although USCIS will not begin accepting H-1B applications until April 1, 2017, it is critical
to start preparing your application now, as the competition for this coveted visa is fierce.  The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit, or cap, of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. However, the first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.  In 2016, USCIS received 236,000 H-1B visa applications within the first five days of the application period. Once USCIS receives enough applications to satisfy the 65,000 quota, it implements a lottery.  The applications that are not selected in the lottery are returned to the sender, along with their filing fees.  In 2016, there was a 25% chance of an application making it through the lottery with a Bachelor’s Degree, and a one third chance with a Master’s Degree.  Continue reading