As spring approaches, we once again find ourselves at the threshold of the H-1B visa cap season, a pivotal time for both U.S. employers and foreign professionals. The H-1B visa program, designed to allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations, is a cornerstone of global talent acquisition. This year, like every year, brings its own set of expectations, challenges, and strategies. Let’s delve into what applicants and employers should anticipate for the upcoming H-1B cap season.
Understanding the H-1B Lottery System
The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 85,000 visas, divided into two categories: 65,000 visas for applicants with bachelor’s degrees (or equivalent) and an additional 20,000 visas for those with master’s degrees or higher from U.S. institutions. People who may be eligible and motivated candidates for these visas include:
- Contractors and Employees outside the US
- Student employees on OPT and CPT
- L-1 employees from India and China
In 2020, USCIS implemented a system requiring employers to electronically register with USCIS and pay a nonrefundable fee for each H-1B candidate registered because the number of registered H1B Cap candidates exceeds the available annual 85,000 H1B visas. USCIS then uses these registrations while it employs a lottery system to select the registrants randomly and permit them to apply.
Key Dates and Deadlines
The H-1B lottery traditionally begins in the first week of April. However, the initial step, the registration process, typically starts in March. In FY 2025, the registration period will run from March 6, 2024, to March 22, 2024. It is highly unlikely that registrations submitted after this deadline will be considered for the FY 2025 H1B season cap.
To ensure that a registration is entered, employers must complete an online registration for each candidate they wish to sponsor and pay the associated fee. It’s crucial to do so within the registration window, as missing it can mean waiting another year.
Those selected may submit an H1B petition for an October 1 employment start date. Litwin & Smtih has an incredible history of successful H1B cap registrations and is available to help employers and candidates ensure that their registrations are submitted in a timely fashion.
Changes in H1B Registrations for FY 2025
Every year can bring changes in regulations and trends. For the upcoming season, it’s essential to stay informed about any policy changes under the current administration. Some key updates include:
- New Registration Accounts: USCIS is transitioning from “registrant” accounts to “organizational” accounts for US employers and their legal representatives to submit H-1B cap registrations. New organizational accounts can be created starting noon Eastern on February 28, 2024, with existing accounts able to upgrade without needing a new account. It’s crucial to ensure these accounts are properly set up with the immigration counsel’s help.
- Updates to Registrant Selection: Additionally, USCIS is updating the H-1B program, starting with a beneficiary-centric cap selection process. This requires registrants to provide valid passport or travel document information for each beneficiary, ensuring each is registered under a unique document intended for H-1B visa use.
- Improvements to Fraud Management: USCIS will have stronger authority to deny or revoke H-1B petitions that are found to contain false attestations or inaccurate information or are otherwise invalid.
Preparing Your Registration for FY2025
Given the competitive nature of the H-1B visa program, it’s vital to prepare a robust application. This includes ensuring that the job description aligns with the specialty occupation requirements, the beneficiary’s qualifications are thoroughly documented, and the employer-employee relationship is clearly established. Attention to detail can make a significant difference in the outcome.
This is particularly important because the H-1B process can be unpredictable. Employers and applicants should be prepared for possible Request for Evidence (RFE) notices, which require additional documentation to prove eligibility. Having a contingency plan, like considering alternative visa options, can be wise.
Prepare for H1B Cap Season FY2025 With Litwin & Smith
The H-1B cap season is a complex and competitive process, requiring thorough preparation, timely action, and a deep understanding of immigration laws and policies. Whether you’re an employer looking to sponsor a foreign worker or a professional seeking opportunities in the U.S., it’s important to approach this season with a well-informed and strategic plan.
For personalized guidance and assistance with the H-1B visa process, consider consulting with an experienced immigration attorney at Litwin & Smith. Our skilled immigration lawyers can provide valuable insights, help navigate the complexities of immigration law, and increase the chances of a successful outcome in this highly competitive arena. Schedule your consultation with our proven immigration law firm to learn more about how we can help you prepare for FY2025’s H1B cap season.