Navigating the H-1B process: Here are essential updates for employers

Close up view of H1B visa stamp in passport

The H-1B visa is a popular option for U.S. employers hiring skilled foreign professionals to fill specialized roles within the United States.

Congress limited the total number of H-1B visas that USCIS can issue each fiscal year to 85,000, with 65,000 reserved for those with bachelor’s degrees or higher and an additional 20,000 designated for those with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions.

Since 2020, the USCIS has used an online electronic registration system requiring employers to submit registrations for the chance to file H-1B petitions on behalf of their intended beneficiaries named in the randomly selected registrations. From the program’s inception, the demand for the coveted visa has far exceeded its availability. Last year, out of the 780,884 registrations submitted, 350,103 were submitted for individuals with one employer, while 408,891 were submitted for individuals with multiple employers. The high demand for, and limited availability of, the H-1B visa highlights the program’s competitiveness but also illuminates the potential for gaming the system.

This year’s H-1B registration period will run from noon March 6th through noon March 22nd (EST). Ahead of this lottery season, the USCIS modified its program to maintain its integrity and ensure that each beneficiary has the same chance of being selected. Notable changes include:

  • Disincentivizing multiple registrations for the same beneficiary. Multiple registrations for the same beneficiary will no longer increase one’s chances of selection. Now, beneficiaries will only be entered into the lottery once, regardless of the number of registrations submitted.
  • Requiring one beneficiary and one passport. Registration for beneficiaries requires their name and valid passport information, including passport number, country of issuance, and expiration date. Beneficiaries may only be registered under one passport, even if they have dual citizenship.
  • Updating forms and increasing fees. Petitions filed on or after April 1st must be submitted on the updated Form I-129 and include the increased filing fee of $780. No outdated forms or insufficient fees will be accepted.
  • Codifying USCIS’s power to deny and revoke. The USCIS can deny or revoke approved petitions for false information, misrepresentations, or fraudulent statements. This applies to registrations, labor condition applications, temporary labor certifications, and multiple registrations for the same beneficiary with different identifying information.

Employers should consult knowledgeable counsel to ensure compliance during this lottery season.

This article appeared in the February 22, 2024, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.