At a Glance
- Employers and their immigration counsel may register foreign nationals for the FY 2021 H-1B cap lottery between Sunday, March 1 at noon ET and Friday, March 20 at noon ET.
- USCIS is expected to receive a very large number of online registrations during this period. Technical slowdowns are possible as a result.
- Before an H-1B cap registration can be submitted by immigration counsel, employers must promptly review, approve and e-sign the registration.
USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap registrations for employment in FY 2021 on Sunday, March 1, at 12:00pm ET. Employers and their immigration counsel will have until Friday, March 20, at 12:00pm ET to draft, review, e-sign and submit their registrations to the agency.
What employers need to do during the registration period
If your organization will be working with immigration counsel to draft and submit H-1B cap registrations, the company must do the following:
- Set up an "H-1B registrant" account in the USCIS online system. Sponsoring employers must have an H-1B registrant account at my.USCIS.gov, even if they will be represented by counsel during the registration process. See Fragomen's guide to setting up an employer account for more information.
- Identify H-1B beneficiaries as soon as possible. If your organization has not yet provided your immigration counsel with a complete list of foreign nationals to be registered for the H-1B cap, it must do so as soon as possible so that registrations can be submitted by the March 20 deadline.
- Promptly review each registration drafted by immigration counsel. When your Fragomen attorney finishes drafting an H-1B cap registration for your organization, the company's designated signatory must log into the USCIS system to review, approve and e-sign the registration. This is also the time to determine whether any changes need to be made to the company's registrations. The registration period is brief, so the signatory should review registrations as soon as requested to do so by the Fragomen attorney. See Fragomen's H-1B cap registration guide for instructions on reviewing and approving registrations.
- Prepare for possible technology slowdowns. The USCIS system is expected to have a very large number of users between March 1 and March 20. This could result in slowdowns and technical glitches, especially because the system is new. Notify your Fragomen team and the USCIS help desk if your organization encounters any problems. The risk of slowdowns increases as the registration deadline approaches. Prompt completion and submission of cap registrations can help to minimize last-minute problems.
If the system becomes inoperable for any reason, USCIS has the authority to suspend registration. Should that occur, the agency would provide employers with further instructions.
What happens after the registration period closes
After the registration period closes on March 20, 2020, USCIS will run two cap lotteries to select the beneficiaries on whose behalf an H-1B cap petition can be filed. The first lottery will contain all registered H-1B beneficiaries. USCIS will use this lottery to select enough registrations to meet the regular H-1B cap of 65,000. The second lottery will contain all registered "master's cap" beneficiaries who were not selected in the first lottery. USCIS will use this lottery to select enough registrations to meet the H-1B cap exemption of 20,000 for holders of U.S. advanced degrees.
USCIS plans to notify employers and immigration counsel of the lottery results by March 31. For each cap registration, USCIS should send an email to the employer's authorized signatory and immigration counsel. The email will notify the recipient that there has been a change in the status of a cap registration. To learn the lottery results, your Fragomen attorney and your company's authorized signatory will need to access his or her my.USCIS.gov account and review the status of each beneficiary.
USCIS will begin to accept H-1B cap petitions on behalf of lottery selectees on April 1, 2020. The petition filing period will end no earlier than June 30, 2020. All FY 2021 H-1B cap petitions must be submitted during this period.
Fragomen is closely monitoring the roll-out of the H-1B registration system and will provide frequent updates during the cap season.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.