USCIS Releases H-1B Lottery Information: Registration Process Begins March 6

February 22, 2024Legal Alerts

USCIS Releases H-1B Lottery Information: Registration Process Begins March 6

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released guidance on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 H-1B lottery process. The registration system will be open from noon Eastern, March 6, 2024 until noon Eastern, March 22, 2024. The application fee will remain $10 for each case entered into the system.

This year, USCIS will implement a new “Beneficiary Centric Selection” process that will help to ensure all beneficiaries have an equal chance of selection, regardless of the number of times each beneficiary is registered. Please see “Winning Futures? The H-1B ‘Lottery’ Will Open Soon. USCIS Predicts Success” for more details.

Why is H-1B filing season important?

This is the only time of year (with minor exceptions indicated below) USCIS accepts H-1B specialty worker petitions for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2024. For a petition to qualify in the H-1B category, the job offered must be a specialty occupation in which a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) is normally the minimum requirement, and the foreign national employee must hold a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) in the specialty defined by the position. In some cases, a bachelor’s-level threshold may be met through a combination of the employee’s education and work experience.

There is an overwhelming demand for the annual allotment of 85,000 new H-1Bs. The number of H-1B approvals requested by employers has reached the annual H-1B cap every year for more than 10 years. Last year, USCIS received 780,884 registrations within the electronic lottery system for 85,000 H-1B slots. If you have an employee that needs a “new” H-1B visa, it is imperative that you take action during the H-1B filing season or you will have to wait a full year for another opportunity.

Electronic registration process in 2024

USCIS will use same the electronic registration system from years past to implement the new beneficiary centric selection process. Employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions must complete an electronic registration for every case the employer wishes to enter into the H-1B lottery. This year, the employer must enter a valid passport or travel number for each registrant. If selected, the passport or travel number used in the H-1B petition filing must be the same number used at the time of registration. This new approach, focusing on the individual registrant, should increase selection odds.

After the registration period closes, USCIS will conduct a random selection lottery from the registrations. The date of the lottery selection has not been announced but will likely occur on or about April 1, 2024. Employers whose cases are selected will then have at least 90 days to complete and file H-1B petitions with USCIS.

Dinsmore attorneys are available to assist employers in navigating the new application process, including completion of the electronic registration and subsequent preparation and filing of selected petitions. USCIS continues to develop its electronic registration system and is expected to release additional details as the registration period approaches.

Are there certain employees we should consider registering?

Yes, four situations come to mind:

  1. Students who hold F-1 visa status and who are working for your organization under a grant of Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training or STEM Optional Practical Training work permission;
  2. Certain L-1 Intracompany Transferees or TN (USMCA/NAFTA) workers who work for your organization;
  3. Candidates who are not yet working for your organization but whom you have an interest in employing in the near future; and
  4. Dependent spouses who hold H-4 status and who have been authorized to work with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

Why F-1 students?

Some F-1 students may qualify for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) work permission that is limited to one year following completion of their degree. Other F-1 students may be eligible for an additional 24 months of STEM OPT work permission. Either way, OPT is time-limited. Furthermore, some additional students may hold Curricular Practical Training (CPT). CPT authorizes employment off campus while the student is still taking classes. These students may be pursuing their first degree in the U.S., or they may have returned to school for an additional degree following exhaustion of their first round of OPT if they were not selected in the H-1B cap lottery. Bottom line: If you have a student working for you on OPT or CPT, it is worth evaluating if they need an H-1B cap registration.

Why L-1 intracompany transferees?

The L-1 intracompany transferee visa category applies to foreign nationals who have been employed abroad in executive, managerial or specialized knowledge capacities for at least one year with a commonly owned foreign company, and who are in the United States working for the same or a related U.S. employer.

L-1 executives or managers (L-1A) may remain in the United States for a maximum of seven years. Specialized knowledge (L-1B) employees may remain for a maximum of five years. There is no possibility of an extension once the seven-or five-year limit has been reached and the time table to complete the permanent residence process continues to climb, especially for Indian foreign nationals.

Why H-4 spouses with employment authorization documents?

H-4 spouses are eligible to apply for an H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if their spouses in H-1B status have an approved I-140 petition. The H-4 EAD allows the spouse to obtain work authorization and engage in employment in the United States.  H-4 spouses working with EADs may wish to have their H-4 statuses changed to H-1B for greater long-term employment security.

Why TN employees?

While TN workers under the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement (formerly known as NAFTA) are not limited in employment duration like their L-1 counterparts, pursuing permanent residence while holding TN status can be problematic. Employers may want to change their TN employees to the H-1B category to facilitate permanent residence (green card) sponsorship.

Are there any exemptions from the annual H-1B cap?

Persons already counted under the H-1B cap and who need an extension of stay are not subject to the annual limitation. Similarly, persons who already hold H-1B status and are transferring to a new employer are exempt from the cap. The annual limitation applies only to persons not yet counted against the annual cap. Also, certain types of educational or nonprofit organizations that file H-1B petitions are exempt from the H-1B numerical limitation.

Contacting Dinsmore about filing an H-1B petition

If you have not already contacted Dinsmore about filing an H-1B petition for an employee who needs to enter the H-1B category, please do so immediately. If you have any questions, please contact any one of our immigration attorneys.