Navigating the FY 2025 H-1B Cap Season: USCIS Announces Changes

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently made significant announcements for the Fiscal Year 2025 H-1B cap season, introducing updates aimed at enhancing the H-1B selection process and program integrity.

By way of background, for FY2024, the USCIS received 780,884 total registrations to meet the total cap of 85,000 H-1B visas it could issue, including the 20,000 reserved for individuals who possess a master’s degree or higher from a United States institution of higher education. Of these, the USCIS determined that 758,994 were “Eligible Registrations” after excluding duplicate registrations, failed payments, and those deleted by the petitioner before the registration period closed. To reach the cap of 85,000 H-1B visas, the USCIS ran lotteries in March and July 2023, selecting a total of 188,400.

Set out below are key changes to the H-1B registration and selection process:

1. H-1B Registration:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a rule amending the H-1B registration selection process. The key provisions of the final rule include:

• Beneficiary-Centric Selection Process: The USCIS will select beneficiaries based on their uniqueness rather than the registration process. This is expected to reduce the possibility of manipulating the system and implement an equitable opportunity for each beneficiary.
• Start Date Flexibility: Certain H-1B cap-subject petitions will now have the flexibility to request start dates after October 1 of the relevant fiscal year, aligning with the current USCIS policy.
• Integrity Measures: The USCIS will have the authority to reject H-1B petitions in cases where the registration includes inaccurate information or is deemed invalid. Furthermore, if the registration fee is declined or found to be invalid post-submission, the USCIS is now empowered to deny or revoke the associated petition at a later date.

2. Fee Increase:

As in past years, the petitioner must pay $10 per individual it seeks to register for the H-1B lottery and the fee remains unchanged for FY2025 but is set to increase to $215 per registrant from FY2026.

3. FY 2025 H-1B Cap Initial Registration Period:

FY2025 H-1B cap’s initial registration period is set to commence by noon Eastern Time on March 6, 2024, and it will conclude at noon Eastern Time on March 22, 2024. Importantly, registrants are required to furnish valid passport information or travel document details, with each beneficiary being eligible for registration under only one passport or travel document.

4. Online Filing and Organizational Accounts:

From February 28, 2024, the USCIS will introduce new organizational accounts in the USCIS online system, enabling collaboration among multiple individuals within an organization and their legal representatives for the preparation of H-1B registrations, petitions, and associated Form I-907. Prospective petitioners (registrants) and their legal representatives must use these new “organizational” accounts, and registrants can create accounts from noon Eastern on February 28, 2024. Existing registrants can upgrade to organizational accounts instead of creating new ones.

Representatives can add clients to their accounts at any time, but both representatives and registrants must wait until March 6 to enter beneficiary information and submit registrations.

From April 1, 2024, the USCIS will accept online filing for H-1B cap petitions and associated Forms I-907 for selected registrations.

5. Important Reminders:

• The USCIS aims to randomly select from registered beneficiaries by March 22, notifying prospective petitioners via their USCIS online accounts.
• The USCIS will also shift the paper filing location for Forms I-129 for H-1B classification and associated Forms I-907 from service centers to the USCIS lockbox. The new filing addresses will be disclosed in March.
• A final rule will increase the Form I-907 filing fee effective February 26, 2024. Any forms received with incorrect fees postmarked on or after this date will be rejected.

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