Published March 7, 2021

By Richard Hanus, Esq.

It’s H-1B work visa registration season, and by the end of this month, US Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) will have completed its selection of 85,000 lucky registrants for the H-1B visa lottery.  Starting Noon EST on March 9, 2021, the online H-1B visa registration period will open for the fiscal year 2022 – which itself starts October 1, 2021.  The registration period will last a little over two weeks, and close at Noon, EST on March 25.

During this period, petitioning employers and their representatives will complete petitioner and prospective foreign worker information and submit their online registrations, vying for an opportunity to have the worker considered for H-1B visa processing.  By March 31 online registrants will know if they are chosen in the initial batch of eligible petitioners, and thus given the green light to submit their actual H-1B visa petition filing for FY 2022 consideration.

As a review, the main ingredients for a successful H-1B filing in general are:

  1. a petitioning U.S. employer looking to fill a “specialty occupation” position, one that typically requires, at a minimum, the attainment of a Bachelor’s degree in a  field related to the job offered and
  2. a prospective worker with at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field in question – although work experience can sometimes be substituted for university coursework.

The purpose of the lottery is to allocate the supply of new 85,000 H-1B visas made available each year – with 20,000 to be designated for those who have obtained a graduate (post Bachelor’s) degree from a U.S. institution – typically on an F-1 student visa.  This number does not include the H-1B visas made available to government agencies, institutions of higher learning and other similar organizations, a supply which is without limit and therefore not subject to the annual cap.

But for cap-subject H-1B visas, the demand outpaces the supply by a margin of at least 3 to 1.  In selecting the 85,000 winners by the end of the month, US CIS actually conducts two lotteries: the first lottery includes all registered petitioners and prospective workers in its pool, and a selection of enough registrations to reach the general cap of 65,000 is carried out.  The second lottery is exclusively for registered petitions on behalf of U.S. advanced-degree holders who were not chosen in the first segment of the lottery, and from there, enough registrations will be selected to meet the advanced-degree cap exemption of 20,000.

The first step in the process is for each petitioning organization to establish a “my USCIS account”, a platform through which employers and their immigration counsel will be notified if their registrations were chosen for H1B consideration.  It is expected that petitioning employers will receive the results of their registration by March 31, 2021.  Importantly, an H-1B visa lottery selection will be valid only for the foreign worker specified in the registration, and thus requests to substitute one worker for another will be refused.

On April 1, 2021, chosen registrants will then have up to approximately 90 days to file their cap-subject petitions with the appropriate US CIS Service Center.  Further, by month’s end, we will know if US CIS will be accepting these petitions for expedited, premium processing, where petitioning employers spend an additional $2,500.00 to have their petitions reviewed within a 2 week period.

Any significant developments when it comes to the substance and timing for the H-1B registration and selection process will continue to be covered here.

PUBLISHED March 7, 2021– “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM” Copyright © 2021, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois