USCIS proposed changes for upcoming H-1B

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On January 30, 2019, the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) published the new rules for the H-1B visa process.

The major change that was proposed is the Introduction of Electronic Registration System and change in process for selecting H-1B cap petitions in the lottery. 

Electronic Registration Process

ERS is online registration portal that USCIS has announced to be used for H1B fiscal year 2021.

Its significance is that USCIS will no longer accept the entire petition for lottery. Rather, employers are expected to enroll names with some basic information about the sponsoring employer as well as each applicant, so that USCIS can conduct the lottery process.

The Petitioner also needs to specify the category in which the H-1B petition will be filed, i.e. Regular or Master’s cap.

On December 6, 2019, USCIS announced that they would accept these registrations from March 1, 2020 through March 20, 2020.

USCIS will then randomly select 85,000 registrations (first 65,000 and then 20,000) and inform the respective employers about the selection and only then petitions or required documentation with supporting fees of the selected applicants has to be sent to USCIS in a stipulated time.

This step is taken on the account to reduce the paperwork and the overall cost for the petitioner and to lessen the workload of USCIS of returning the rejected petition to the petitioner after the completion of the lottery like every year.

U.S. Employers seeking to file an H-1B cap-subject petition for a foreign national 85,000 H-1B cap slots are now required to register each foreign national with USCIS online electronic registration services (“ERS”) for $10 non-refundable fee for each applicant.


“…. Only those selected applicants would need to submit the complete H-1B petition with full fee and supporting documentation,” said USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans.  

Master’s Cap:

The change in the process to select petitions on lottery has been already implemented in H-1B for fiscal year 2020 which involves reversing the order in which the random selection process has been conducted in the previous years.

Earlier, USCIS used to first conduct lottery of 20,000 of those applied in Advanced Degree H-1B cap slot or the Master’s Cap, once 20,000 applications were selected, USCIS then pool those individuals not selected in the lottery for Master’s Cap with those applying Regular cap and select 65,000 applications.

By reversing the order in which the lottery was conducted, USCIS has estimated an increase of 16% in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.  With Master Cap Selection Changes, USCIS is placing “an additional emphasis on advanced degree holders from the U.S. Institution”.

How will these changes impact Beneficiaries of H-1B 2021:

In my opinion, with the change in how lottery will be conducted, we can expect that there will be more applicants submitted for lottery for H-1B this year, compared to the last few years. This might stretch the likelihood of a person getting selected in lottery thin. But ultimately nothing has changed in terms of likelihood of getting a petition approved or increase in number of approved petitions.

USCIS will be posting detailed instructions relating to the complete registration process along with the key date and timeline closer to the initial registration period.  

If you are interested to stay updated on H-1B news on future announcements and changes, please follow:

Registration fee requirment

Electronic registration process

About author: Priyanka Gajbhiye, an Associate Corporate Legal in ConsultAdd Inc, is diligently gathering news as USCIS announces to gather all proposed changes and present in layman terms.