U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will hold the H-1B electronic registration process for the fiscal year 2025 H-1B cap (from which the annual H-1B lottery will be run). Registration begins at noon EST on March 6, 2024, and runs through noon EDT on March 22, 2024.

Following the registration period, USCIS will randomly select more than 85,000 entries and invite those petitioners to submit a full H-1B petition filing (including all filing fees) within the period of at least 90 days specified in the case selection notice. The reason that USCIS selects more entries than the 85,000 available H-1B numbers (including 20,000 for U.S. master's degree holders) is to ensure that cases that are denied or not pursued do not prevent the 85,000 allotment from being exhausted. If USCIS believes that more H-1B filings are needed to exhaust the 85,000 available numbers, it can make additional rounds of selections (subsequent to the March lottery).

This H-1B cap season will see a number of changes:

First, to reduce fraud and prevent individuals from unlawfully enhancing their chances of selection, USCIS will take a "beneficiary-centric" approach to the H-1B selection process. The change to a beneficiary-centric process will ensure that each foreign national (beneficiary) will have the same chance of being selected, regardless of how many registrations are submitted on their behalf — although U.S. master's degree holders will still have higher odds of selection. To achieve this beneficiary-centric approach, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information. The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the United Sates if issued an H-1B visa. Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document.

Second, USCIS will be introducing a new online platform and will be automatically converting all existing H-1B Company/Registrant accounts to the new system (which will then be called "organizational" accounts). Those companies that don't have existing accounts will be able to establish them beginning at noon EST on Feb. 28. As soon as USCIS releases additional information on the setup process, we'll provide you with that guidance.

If you haven't already done so, please let us know by Feb. 15 the names of anyone whom you want to enter into the H-1B lottery.

USCIS announced that the initial selection process will be completed by March 31, 2024. USCIS will then notify organizations as to which foreign nationals have been selected. This notification will also provide a 90-day period in which H-1B petitions for the selected individual must be prepared and filed. However, candidates who need a cap gap extension of their F-1 OPT/STEM OPT EAD cards must have H-1B petitions filed for them before their EAD cards expire.

To be eligible for the master's cap, an individual must earn a U.S. master's (or more advanced) degree no later than the last (89th) day of the period allotted for the filing (due on day 90) of the H-1B petition following lottery selections. This means that if an individual has not yet earned their U.S. master's (or more advanced) degree but will earn it within 89 days following April 1, 2024, he or she may be eligible for the master's cap.

Please review your employment needs now to determine whether you wish to sponsor any of your current or prospective employees for H-1B status. This includes those professionals already employed by you in F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT), F-1 STEM OPT, F-1 CPT, E-3, TN, J-1/J-2 or L-1A/L-1B status, and any individuals you may wish to bring on board as of Oct. 1, 2024. You may also consider submitting an H-1B registration for current employees who are already working for you based on their dependent status (H-4 EAD, L-2S, E-2S, E-3S, etc.).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.