New Process for H-1B Visa Program Begins March 1

February 19, 2020
Inside HR
Recruiting & Hiring
Read time: 3 mins

On January 31, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published its final rule requiring a new electronic registration for the annual H-1B Visa lottery, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to place an annual cap of 65,000 visas available for new hires and 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a master’s degree or doctorate from a U.S. university.


The H-1B is a temporary visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” such as mathematics, engineering, and technology. The initial duration of an H-1B visa is three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years. Historically, the USCIS has accepted very lengthy H-1B petitions on the first business day of April each year and select visas through a random selection process. For many years, the demand for H-1B visas has significantly outweighed supply and the cap has often been reached within the first several days of April.

What’s Changing?

The new electronic registration will require sponsoring employers to submit an online petition to the USCIS during a new designated registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020 (instead of the first business day in April). The USCIS will post step-by-step instructions on its website along with additional key dates and timelines. Here are a few items to keep in mind:  

  • Employers can set up an account prior to March 1, 2020.
  • The registration process requires basic information about the sponsoring company and each sponsored professional, including but not limited to: the name of the employer; information regarding the employer’s attorney, employer identification number, and any “doing business as” (DBA) names. The forms also require full name, title, and contact information of the authorized signatory as well as beneficiary information including name, gender, date of birth, country of birth, and if he or she has an advanced degree from the U.S. 
  • Employers will be required to pay a $10 nonrefundable fee to register.
  • After the registration period closes on March 20, 2020, USCIS will run a random selection process only on properly submitted electronic registrations.
  • The USCIS intends to notify all selected registrants, employers, and/or authorized representatives of the lottery results no later than March 31, 2020.
  • All approved registrants will begin at the earliest on October 1, 2020 (the first business day of the 2021 fiscal year).

Next Steps

The USCIS expects that the electronic registration requirement, once implemented, will reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for the USCIS and petitioners. The USCIS expects to receive enough new electronic registrations for all H-1B petitions and as stated above, all approved registrants will begin at the earliest on October 1, 2020.   

MRA members should continue to work directly with their immigration attorneys during the H-1B process. For helpful tips, members can download Considerations for Sponsoring a Foreign National Through the H-1B Visa Process.

Source: Michael Hyatt, Director, HR Government Affairs, MRA – The Management Association