The USCIS has announced a free webinar to be held on Feb 24th for anyone interested in learning more about the H-1b cap lottery and the registration process. More info and a link to register can be found here.
There were 3 new regulations announced by the Trump Administration prior to their demise. They included:
1. A change to the way the H-1b lottery was conducted to emphasize level of pay
2. A change to the DOL methodology for setting prevailing wages using the OES
3. A change to the definition of employer-employee
Last week, the Biden Administration issued a regulatory freeze, commonly done when a new Administration takes over so they can review what is commonly referred to as midnight regulations. Relative to the 3 regulations referenced above, this freeze means that the change to the employer-employee definition is dead. The DOL has already withdrawn its interpretive memo which was to accompany the new USCIS rule. (see our blog post from 1-22-2021) As for the change to the DOL methodology in setting OES wages, the freeze means a 60 day review and possible changes or a complete withdrawal. Please note that the new wages were not to take effect until July 1, 2021 so regardless of what happens, the upcoming H-1b cap lottery season should not be impacted. There also remains pending Federal litigation on this rule. The future of the 1st announced regulation favoring Level 4 wages in the lottery selection and the all but guarantee that Level 1 registrations would not be selected, it is not clear what the White House may do. As part of the proposed comprehensive immigration bill which was sent to Congress last week, the White House released a Fact Sheet that outlined the broad principles of the Biden Bill and they state a desire to promote “higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas” This may be an indication that they support a change to the H-1b lottery selection process. We expect to have more definitive information as the H-1b lottery draws closer.
Hammond Neal Moore will be hosting a clients only conference call on Thurs. Jan 28th at 2:00 eastern to discuss the latest changes impacting the H-1b cap lottery for this year. You can see detailed topics and register here.
Today, the USCIS published a new rule in the Federal Register changing the way that H-1b petitions are chosen in the lottery. The lottery has always been a random selection process however, this new regulation would change the process to a wage based system in which persons being paid at wage level 4 would have a higher chance of selection then someone paid at a level 1 or level 2 wage level. It is believed that the new regulation would all but, eliminate any chance at a person being selected if they are offered a level 1 wage. Level 1 wages are typically offered to new grads (hence the designation Level 1) The new regulation makes it easier for employers based overseas to obtain visas for their key employees while making it harder for international graduates from U.S. schools to obtain a visa. Large outsourcing employers are cheering this change as they will be able to easily take advantage of the new rule whereas smaller employers and those who hire new grads, often in the healthcare industry, are decrying this policy change. Whether or not this policy survives a legal challenge or changes by the Biden Administration remains to be seen.
As expected, the USCIS announced on Friday, that it had reached the cap for new H-1b cases during the first five days of April and a lottery will be held. If last year is any indication, we should start to receive receipts for those lucky few within the next 2 weeks. More updates will be provided as they become available.
The USCIS has announced that it has completed the data entry of all H-1b cap lottery cases and that rejected cases will begin to be returned next week. Receipts are expected to continue to trickle in over the next week. The USCIS did not provide an estimate for when all receipts or rejected cases would be sent out but, we expect it to be another 4- 6 weeks.
Happy April 1st, the day where hope of a coveted H-1b visa still feels in reach. Due to April 1st falling on a Saturday, the H-1b cap period this year begins on Monday April 3rd and all cases received between Monday and Friday April 7th, will be included in the lottery. Information about the cap being reached, the lottery being conducted and the commencement of receipts being mailed out can all be found on this very helpful USCIS page. I hope you all get a receipt !
H-1b cap lottery filings are less than three (3) months away ! HLG will be hosting a conference call on Thurs. Feb 2nd for clients to discuss issues and strategies relating to this year’s lottery filings. Register at the HLG web-site. The call is free. Note there are two calls scheduled, one for healthcare cos. and the second for everyone else.
Today, April 1st, marks the first day that H-1b cap petitions can be filed seeking a new H-1b visa from the FY 2017 quota. The quota is set at 85,000 total with 20,000 being set-aside for persons with US masters degrees or higher. All H-1b petitions must be filed by a US employer and the pay offered must meet the prevailing wage established by the DOL. All individuals who have filings done for them must have at least a bachelor’s level education. The majority of filings are for STEM positions. As a result of demand exceeding supply, the USCIS has created a lottery system and all filings received in the first 5 business days of April will be included in a random drawing for the coveted visas. The lottery is typically held the 3rd week of April and those petitions lucky enough to be chosen are then processed. Those cases not selected in the lottery are returned to the employers who filed them. Last year, over 220,000 petitions were submitted. Many are expecting over 250,000 this year. The fact that the US immigration policy allows for the selection of highly skilled workers, most filling STEM related, hard to fill positions, by random chance is absurd. Unfortunately, the anti-immigration far right led by Grassley, Cruz, and Sessions have thwarted any attempts to reform the legal immigration system into a system that does a better job of selecting international workers while still protecting US jobs. It is as if they actually are in favor of the status quo i.e. dysfunction as it gives them something to beat their chest about. The rhetoric coming from the Presidential race indicates that we will be left with the lottery for some time.
On Feb 2nd HLG will host a free conference call to discuss H-1b cap lottery filings. More info. and sign-up details can be found here.