USCIS Proposes Changes to Annual H-1B Visa Lottery

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has just proposed two major changes to the H-1B visa lottery process, which takes place each year during the first week of April.

Change 1:  A New Employer Registration System.  


The first change is a new online registration process for employers during a designated registration period, which would avoid the need to file a complete H-1B petition without knowing if it will be selected.  The online registration form will ask for information about the employer, the intended H-1B worker (including information about their education), and the employer’s representative/attorney (if applicable). There is no fee to register an H-1B worker for the lottery at this time, but only one registration is permitted per worker.  The proposed rule indicates that employers will have a two-week period to register prospective H-1B workers and will get an electronic confirmation of registration.

Employers whose registrations have been selected will be notified electronically and will be given a 60-day window in which to file a complete H-1B petition on behalf of the foreign national named in the original registration. Substitutions are not permitted.   Those entries not selected will be held in reserve for that year.

The proposed rule, which will be published officially on Monday, December 3, 2018, does not indicate when exactly the registration period will begin, but does say that USCIS will give the public at least 30 days advance notice before opening a registration period.  It also states that the registration period will last a minimum of 14 calendar days. Finally, if USCIS is unable to get the registration technology ready in time for the annual H-1B visa lottery, it may forego the registration process for the upcoming lottery in April 2019.  If this ends up happening, USCIS will announce as such on its website. Employers will have to be ready to file H-1B petitions during the first week of April like past years.

Change 2:  Reversing the Order of the Master’s and Regular H-1B Lotteries

USCIS also plans to reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions to maximize the number of H-1B visas awarded to foreign nationals with a US graduate degree.   Instead of running the 20,000 H-1B visa lottery for foreign nationals with a US graduate degree first and then the 65,000 H-1B visa lottery, which includes the US graduate-degree holders who were not selected in the 20,000 lottery, it will switch the order to first run the 65,000 regular H-1B visa lottery and then the 20,000 US graduate degree lottery.  USCIS believes this switch will result in more foreign nationals with US graduate degrees obtaining H-1B visas, which aligns with President Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” Executive Order.

Please note that this is a proposed rule.  A 30-day notice and comment period will follow the rule’s publication on Monday, December 3, 2018, and then the final rule will be published.  

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as soon as possible.