United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued announced plans to bring back a modified version of a 2011 proposal that uses an electronic pre-registration system for H-1B visa petitions subject to the cap, as published in the Federal Register on Monday.
The H-1B visa, provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act, is reserved for foreign skilled workers in highly specialized fields including, but not limited to, medicine, biotechnology, physiotherapy, and engineering among several others. At present, only a Bachelor’s degree is necessary to prove one’s expertise in a specific field. USCIS’s proposed rule, however, seeks to increase the number of H-1B recipients with Master’s or higher degrees acquired specifically from a U.S. higher education institution (HEI).
Existing laws state that the issuance of new H-1B visas must be capped at 65,000 annually for those possessing only Bachelor’s degrees (Regular cap) and an additional cap of 20,000 new visas for those with higher degrees from U.S. HEIs (U.S. Masters cap).
Demand for the H-1B often exceeds supply and, under the new system, USCIS claims they will be providing more opportunities for those with higher degrees by changing how it goes about the cap selection lotteries. Specifically, if the number of visa petitions filed exceed the cap, the agency will conduct the regular cap lottery first and place those with advanced degrees into a second lottery exclusive to those with their level of educational attainment—under the t system, the advanced-degree lottery happens first.
The new system also seeks to make certain parts of the application process more convenient. Now, employers may file a short online form requiring only basic information regarding the company and the foreign national applying for a visa, as opposed to the current system requiring the initial submission of a full H-1B petition. Information about the position the foreigner will be taking may also be asked.
Current regulations allow employers to submit more than one registration per H-1B worker. The new rule limits petitions to only one per prospective beneficiary and requires employers to file a separate petition for every foreign beneficiary they intend to hire. Substitute beneficiaries will not be honored for certain registrations.
In addition, employers now have to name the vacant position they are seeking to fill with a foreign specialty worker and specify and attest that they are petitioning for the named beneficiary to fill that specific position. USCIS warned that they will be closely monitoring registrations and petitions with regard to this matter and will more fervently pursue investigations into employers found to be abusive of the H-1B for selected registrations.
USCIS has promised to announce the implementation of the online system at least 30 days before cap filing for the H-1B opens. The system will stay active and functional for at least 14 days.
If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa program, or want assistance on applying for a visa with your employer, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials