Understanding the H-1B Online Registration System

UPDATE 2/17/2021

United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) indicated it will open H-1B registration for FY2021 on March 9, 2021. The window will close March 25, 2021. During the registration period, petitioners can electronically file petitioner and beneficiary information through the electronic registration process.

On February 5, USCIS shared the following guidance on this year’s electronic registration:

  • A confirmation number will be assigned to each registration submitted for the FY 2022 H-1B cap. This number is used solely to track registrations; registrants cannot use this number to track case status through Case Status Online.
  • Prospective H-1B cap-subject petitioners or their representatives are required to use a myUSCIS online account to register each beneficiary for the selection process electronically and pay the associated $10 H-1B online registration fee for each registration submitted on behalf of each beneficiary. Prospective petitioners submitting their own registrations (U.S. employers and agents, or “registrants”) will use a “registrant” account. Legal representatives may add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 9, 2021 to enter beneficiary information and submit the fee. 

Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security announced a delay in the effective date of the H-1B Selection Process final rule to December 31, 2021. The rule was an 11th hour decree from the Trump Administration and would have fundamentally changed the H-1B lottery to prioritize petitions with the highest wages.

Original Blog Post, 2/27/2020

Employers hoping to sponsor a foreign professional on an H-1B visa through the H-1B cap lottery can start to create accounts in preparation for the electronic H-1B online registration system, which will begin taking petition registrations on March 1st. The employer registration period marks the start of a new electronic registration system, which will take place for the first time this year, and will impact petitions for the FY 2021 H-1B cap.

Changes to H-1B Cap for FY2021

The electronic registration system presents a fundamental shift in the way the H-1B lottery is conducted and H-1B petitions are processed. In previous years, employers would submit completed petitions to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the H-1B cap lottery. With electronic registration, employers will register each beneficiary for a $10 non-refundable fee but will not submit a full petition until after the individual is chosen in the H-1B lottery.

Electronic Registration – Benefits for Employers

Electronic registration should benefit employers in two ways:

  1. Decrease in fraudulent petitions – The purpose behind the registration system is to combat duplicate petitions and decrease fraudulent applications clogging the system. While a decrease in applications could result in a better chance of selection in the lottery system, it could be counterbalanced by increased petition caused by the lower barrier of entry. Regardless, decreases in fraudulent petitions will always benefit employers who are doing the right thing.
  2. Earlier notification of petition status – In previous H-1B cap lotteries, employers could wait up to three months to learn the status of a potential employee. With electronic registration, employers will know sooner whether or not their employee has been chosen in the cap lottery and can plan accordingly.

Potential Drawbacks of Electronic H-1B Registration Program

With change comes new opportunities – and liabilities. Our primary concerns are as follows:

  1. Untested system = unforeseen results – Eventually, electronic H-1B online registration could provide streamlined petitioning with lower financial and administrative overhead for employers. But with all new electronic systems, there will undoubtedly be hiccups in the process. For now, we recommend employers treat this year’s H-1B process like all previous years and begin preparing for Labor Condition Application (LCA) in advance of the petition.
  2. Low barrier of entry will increase competition – With decreased administrative burdens in the H-1B application process, we expect to see an influx of applications to the already competitive lottery. USCIS received more than 200,000 petitions for 85,000 available visa slots in the FY2020 cap. This number will most likely increase.
  3. Potential for LCA backlog – As anyone who has filed an H-1B petition probably knows, the LCA process can be unpredictable and easily impacted by backlogs in the system. If a majority of employers wait until selection in the lottery to file their LCAs, the U.S. Department of Labor may have a hard time keeping up with demand and disruption to petitions could occur.
  4. Timelines – If selected in the lottery, an employer will have a 90-day window in which to file. If there are delays in the LCA process or other processing delays, this 90-day window will get very tight as 86,000 Petitioners try to file their applications simultaneously.

How to Register for FY2021 H-1B Lottery

Create an Account

Employers can create an account at any time until the registration window closes at noon on March 20. To create an account, go to the USCIS account portal. While accounts can be created now, H-1B online registration does not begin until March 1st.

Important information about your account:

  • The account should be created by before H-1B Cap registration begins on March 1st.
  • Your account should be connected to the person who will electronically sign all Forms G-28 Notice of Appearance of Attorney, for 2021FY H-1B CAP cases.
  • Keep your myUSCIS account login information available as you will need this for the registration process starting March 1st.

Register H-1B Petitions from March 1st to noon on March 20th

Employers can choose to register H-1B petitions through their account, or have an attorney submit registrations on their behalf. During the registration process, the following information must be provided:

  • Registrant information
    • Legal name of petitioning company or organization
    • Doing Business As the name of petitioning company or organization
    • Employer identification number
    • Primary U.S. office address
    • Signatory’s legal name, title, phone number, and email address
  • Beneficiary information
    • Full legal name, gender, and date of birth
    • Information pertaining to the highest degree earned
    • Country of birth
    • Country of citizenship
    • Passport number

USCIS will charge $10 to register each H-1B beneficiary. During the registration process, the petitioner can file up to 250 petitions per batch, with no cap on number of total submissions. While registrations cannot be edited once submitted, registrations can be deleted and resubmitted, with an additional $10 fee, if changes must be made.

H-1B Notifications March 31st

USCIS expects to notify registrants on the status of H-1B registrations via USCIS online accounts by March 31st, 2020. At that time, USCIS will designate each registration in a registrant’s account with one of four statuses:

  • Submitted: A registration status may continue to show “Submitted” after the initial selection process has been completed. “Submitted” registrations will remain in consideration for selection until the end of the fiscal year, at which point all registration statuses will be Selected, Not Selected or Denied.
  • Selected: Selected to file an FY2021 H-1B cap-subject petition.
  • Not Selected: Not selected for this fiscal year. This status will not appear until the conclusion of the fiscal year. In the event that USCIS determines that it needs to increase the number of registrations projected to meet the H-1B regular cap or the advanced degree exemption allocation, USCIS will select from registrations held in reserve to meet the H-1B regular cap or advanced degree exemption allocation.
  • Denied: The same registrant or representative submitted more than one registration on the beneficiary’s behalf for the same fiscal year. All registrations the registrant or representative submitted on behalf of the same beneficiary for the same fiscal year are invalid.

Prepare H-1B applications

Once the lottery is concluded and notifications are released, employers will have 90 days to submit completed H-1B petitions. The date petitions are due will be determined by the day notifications are released.

FordMurray Tips to Prepare for H-1B Electronic Registration Process

Be Proactive

The word for 2020 in business immigration is proactive. While the online registration system could prove to be a boon for cost and administrative efficiencies, it is untested and could present headaches and roadblocks at any phase. Employers should register their accounts early and prepare LCAs as if their petitions have already been already chosen. Don’t wait until the last minute. Have your H-1B ready for filing on April 1 as though you will be selected – this will make the 90-day window feel long and will help to alleviate any stress in the process.

Prepare for alternatives

We expect the FY2021 H-1B cap to be more competitive than past years – plan accordingly. While the H-1B has been a preferred work visa since its inception, other visa and immigration options exist depending on the industry, job position, and the beneficiary’s country of origin. We are always happy to speak with you about your unique situation.

As the electronic H-1B registration process unfolds, we will keep you up to date on developments. Please reach out if you have questions or concerns – we are always happy to help.