While there are 65,000 H-1B numbers available each year, and an additional 20,000 for those with at least a U.S. Master’s degree, there has not been enough to meet market demands. As a result, employers have had to plan ahead. In fact, in the past several years, employers have had to prepare complete petitions, along with supporting documentation, and file them as far as six months in advance to have a chance at a lottery system that determines whether their petitions would even be reviewed. The chance of success has hovered around 30-40%. (This refers to the success rate of being chosen for processing, not the actual success rate of the petition.)

This year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on December 6, 2019 that they will be employing a new electronic registration system which will require employers first to register their cases between March 1, 2020 and March 20, 2020 noon EST. (This avoids having to prepare a complete filing prior to knowing whether the petition would even be reviewed by an officer.) Once the registration period is closed, USCIS will conduct a lottery to determine which cases will have the opportunity to proceed with filing an actual petition. This is the first time that USCIS is employing this system and they have been releasing information about the process piecemeal over the course of the last few weeks. To date, the actual relevant components of the system are not fully live yet. Below are some key dates for your reference.

February 24: Petitioners will be able to create H-1B registrant accounts. We will provide you with more detailed instructions regarding the creation of such accounts. Please note that each employer (as designated by separate Federal Employer Identification Numbers) must create a separate account.

In the meantime, attorneys will also be able to create separate accounts.

March 1: H-1B registration period opens at noon EST.

During the registration period, attorneys will be able to help prepare draft registrations of all of your employees. Once the drafts are complete, attorneys will be able to share these with you via your H-1B registrant account. You will have the opportunity to review and “sign off” on the registration list before the attorneys submit the official registration. Please note that without your “sign off” attorneys will not be able to register your cases. Therefore, please ensure that you have email access during this period.

March 20: H-1B registration period closes at noon EST. Please note that there is no difference whether one registers on the first day or last day of the registration period. Our firm has elected to wait a few days before registering cases to avoid any technical problems that may arise during the first few days.

March 31: Date by which USCIS intends to notify selected registrants.

April 1: The earliest date that FY 2021 H-1B cap-subject petitions may be filed. Employers will have a 90-day period to file a complete H-1B petition.

Stay tuned for more updates.