U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the initial registration period for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 H-1B cap will open at noon EST on March 1st and run through noon EST on March 17, 2023. USCIS intends to notify selected registrants by March 31st. Employers sponsoring selected registrants will be able to file cap-subject H-1B petitions in April.
This registration process will not apply to H-1B transfers (between employers) or extensions of status applications. It will only impact new H-1B visas subject to the annual quota or “cap” of 65,000 visas (Regular cap) and an additional cap of 20,000 H-1B visas available for “specialty worker” beneficiaries with advanced degrees from US colleges or universities (US Masters cap). Exempt from the H-1B cap and this registration proposal are 6,800 H-1B1 visas, set aside for Chile and Singapore nationals. Moreover, specialty workers who will be employed at an institution of higher education (as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended), or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, and workers who will be employed at a nonprofit or governmental research organization, are exempt from the H-1B cap.
Employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the FY 2024 cap (for terms of employment starting on October 1, 2023) will complete an online registration form that solicits basic data about the company and the prospective H-1B employee/beneficiary (including whether he or she holds a qualifying advanced degree) and pay $10 registration fee for each beneficiary. Employers will file a separate registration for each proposed H-1B worker and, per current rules, employers will be prohibited from submitting more than one registration per H-1B worker. The H-1B random selection process, if needed, will then be run based on the submitted registrations. Only employers with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. USICS may determine it is necessary to continue accepting registrations, or open an additional registration period, if it does not receive enough registrations and subsequent petitions projected to reach the numerical cap.
Is It Working?
This marks the fourth year of the electronic registration process. While some of the system bugs were fixed over the years, landing sufficient numbers of cap-subject H-1B visas remains elusive for most employers. Last year (FY 2023), USCIS received 483,927 H-1B registrations from 48,000+ employers and selected 127,600 registrations. By August 2022, USCIS received enough petitions to reach the H-1B cap. In the prior year (FY 2022), USCIS received 308,613 H-1B registrations and initially selected 87,500 but had to conduct two additional selections, with a grand total of 131,970 selections. The chances of selection for FY 2022 were less than 35% and dropped to under 25% for FY 2023.
What Employers Should Do to Prepare
Though cap registration will not open until March 1st, employers should work with immigration counsel to identify H-1B cap needs and gather beneficiary data as soon as possible. This is especially important for employers sponsoring F-1 student visa holders who may be working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT) that is expiring within the coming months so they can maximize eligibility for “Cap-Gap” work authorization benefits.
USCIS indicated employer registrants can create new myUSCIS online accounts beginning at noon EST on February 21st. We recommend first-time employer registrants refrain from creating a new myUSCIS account for H-1B registration until after noon EST on February 21st to avoid the system inadvertently blocking the user’s email address from future use in the H-1B registration process.
If you have questions about the above or need assistance with H-1B registration, please reach out to your Squire Patton Boggs contact.