Get ready for FY 2020 H-1B Cap Season

It is time to begin preparations for the new H-1B (cap-subject) filing season. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions on April 1, 2019 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, which starts on October 1, 2019. 

Each FY, there are only 85,000 new H-1Bs of which 65,000 are for foreign nationals with a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent education) from a U.S. or foreign college or university, and 20,000 for foreign nationals with an advanced degree from a U.S. college or university. 

It appears that for FY 2020, the USCIS will receive more petitions than there are H-1B visas available, necessitating a lottery.  This is similar to what has transpired over the past few years.  In view of this, all petitions received in the first five business days from April 1, 2019 onwards, (i.e. until April 5, 2019) will be included in the lottery.  Employers who wish to employ foreign nationals on H-1Bs must file their H-1B petitions during the first five working days of April. Hence businesses must begin assessing their needs now, identifying their potential H-1B candidates and begin collating the paper work. 

In December 2018, the USCIS proposed on online pre-registration and selection process.  Additionally the USCIS has also proposed a reversal in the order by which H-1B petitions are selected in the lottery.  Under these new rules H-1B beneficiaries possessing a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. college or university stand a better chance at being picked up in the lottery than they did in the past. 

The USCIS has indicated that this new on-line pre-registration will be implemented for FY 2020 but it appears that this might not happen.  However, the USCIS might still go ahead and reverse the lottery selection process whereby the beneficiaries possessing a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. college or university shall be pooled with the general 65,000 H-1Bs. Those beneficiaries possessing a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. college or university that do not get selected in the general lottery will be subject to an additional selection applicable to only this class of beneficiaries to fill the 20,000 H-1Bs allocated for them. 

By way of background, the H-1B non-immigrant visa is for foreign nationals seeking to work in “specialty occupations,” or occupations that require the application of specialized knowledge which is generally fulfilled by requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, in a specialized field. The job should require a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent and the candidate should have a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent in a relevant specialized field. 

Keywords: H-1B, Cap, Bachelor’s degree, USCIS, Speciality Occupation, Non-immigrant visa

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