Changes to the H-1B Registration Process; H-1B Fiscal Year 2025 is Here

Last week U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced major changes to the H-1B application process.

About the H-1B Lottery

The H-1B program is one of the primary avenues that US employers can hire and temporarily employ international talent in occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree in a specific specialty. There is an annual limitation of 65,000 visas, renewable for up to six (6) years (or longer in certain circumstances). Foreign workers who hold a U.S. master’s or doctoral degree are eligible for an additional 20,000 visas set aside exclusively for the advanced degree exemption. However, H-1B registrations/petitions are generally subject to a random electronic lottery, due to demand outpacing numerical limitations, and compete for the employment start date of October 1.

In Fiscal Year 2024, USCIS received 780,884 H-1B registrations during the March 2023 registration period, by far a record for the H-1B program.

Under the former system, an employer that wants to request an H-1B visa for a potential employee submits a short application on the USCIS website to be registered for the lottery. Multiple employers could register the same individual. As a result, an individual with several potential employers had a proportionally higher chance of getting picked in the lottery than an individual with only one potential employer.  More than 400,000 registrations in last year’s lottery were found to be multiple entries for the same beneficiary.

A Shift to a New H-1B Lottery System

In the past year, several constituencies grew increasingly concerned that individuals with multiple lottery registrations were gaining too great of an advantage over individuals with just a single entry.

In response, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced major changes to the H-1B lottery for Fiscal Year 2025, aimed to make the system fairer by giving each individual H-1B lottery applicant the same chance at being selected for a visa.

The new “beneficiary-centric” system will give equal weight to each individual person in the H-1B lottery regardless of the number of potential employers that registered the individual in the lottery.  The Fiscal Year 2025 H-1B lottery registration system will next open on March 6, 2024, and run until March 22, 2024. This will be the first lottery run under the new “beneficiary-centric” system.

Hitting the (H-1B) Lottery

After the close of the registration period, USCIS will conduct its initial selection process and Notices of Selection will be sent to selected registrants.

Petitioners and their representatives must file for the selected beneficiaries within 90 days of receiving notification of selection under the lottery; last year, completed H-1B petitions for selected registrants were due by June 30, 2023. Additionally, there may be a second round of selections in late summer/early fall of, allowing additional registrations to be selected for the remaining numerical allocations. There has historically been a second – or even third – draw of the lottery. It is not clear how the new beneficiary-centric process may affect odds of subsequent draws of the lottery.

In another change, USCIS will begin permitting employers and their legal representatives to submit the I-129 petition electronically, instead of the current paper-only process. It should be well-noted, however, that the online filing process will only go-live for the first time later this month. Your Stevens & Lee attorney may advise against the filing of certain petition electronically while the system is in its first year.

Fee Changes

The registration fee for the March 2024 lottery will remain at $10 per registration; however, for subsequent registrations (starting with Fiscal Year 2026), that fee will increase to $215. Another anticipated fee change will go into effect on April 1, 2024, when the base I-129 petition filing fee will go up from $460 per petition to $780 for most employers. USCIS is also instituting a fee to help offset the cost of the Asylum program. Most for-profit employers will pay an additional $600 fee with each H-1B petition. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees will instead pay a $300 Asylum Program Fee, and nonprofits will pay no Asylum Program Fee

Next Steps

For more information regarding the Fiscal Year 2025 H-1B Cap, please reach out to one of our Immigration Co-Chairs, Manuela M. Morais or Jeffrey M. Zimskind.