U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced two significant changes to the way H1-B cap cases will be selected this year. The changes would result in up to 5,340 more immigrants with a master’s degree or higher getting selected for the visa, according to USCIS 

1. The sequence in selecting the H-1B “regular” cap cases and the U.S. master’s/PhD cap cases. This will be effective this year. In the past, USCIS would conduct a lottery to fill the 20,000 H-1B slots set aside for applicants with U.S. master’s/PhD degrees. If an applicant with a U.S. master’s/PhD degree was not selected in the first round lottery, the case would be moved to the second round lottery the USCIS conducts to fill the remaining 65,000 “regular” H-1B slots. However, beginning on April 1, 2019, USCIS will first conduct the lottery to fill the regular 65,000 H-1B slots. Any cases with a U.S. master’s/PhD case not selected during this round, will be entered into the lottery for the 20,000 H-1B slots set aside for applicant with U.S. master’s/PhD degrees. USCIS believes that this will increase the chances for individuals with US master’s degree to be selected in the H1B lottery, and practically, applicants with a U.S. master’s/PhD degree still get two bites at the H-1B apple.

2. A registration process will be introduced in 2020. The current system requires employers to submit a full H1B packet, including all supporting documents and fees, to USCIS to enter into the H1B lottery. However, next year, USCIS will implement a registration system for employers. The intent is to allow employers to enter into the lottery without first filing a full H1B application. The initial proposal raised many questions on the practical implementation of the registration system. As such, after public comments, USCIS will not implement the registration this year, but will plan to roll it out in 2020.

Take Away: From the preparation standpoint, nothing will change this year. We must still fully prepare the H1B petition and submit it on April 1. Applicants with US master’s degree will have better odds of getting selected under the new system.

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