On November 8, 2019, USCIS published a Final Rule in the Federal Register implementing a new registration fee requirement for those employers who seek to file cap-subject H-1B petitions. Under the new rule, which is effective as of December 9, 2019, U.S. employers will be required to pay a $10 registration fee for each Cap H-1B petition filed. On December 6, 2019, USCIS published an announcement on their website noting:

Upon implementation of the electronic registration system, petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, will first have to electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period, unless the requirement is suspended. USCIS is slated to implement the registration process for the fiscal year 2021 (starting October 1, 2020) H-1B cap selection process, pending completed testing of the system. The agency will announce the implementation timeframe and initial registration period in the Federal Register once a formal decision has been made.

We don’t know much about what this registration system will look like or how it will operate. What we do know is that USCIS has promised to monitor whether registrations selected in the lottery are then used to file an actual H-1B cap-subject petition. USCIS also stated in its announcement about the program that the agency will “post step-by-step instructions informing registrants how to complete the registration process on its website along with key dates and timelines as the initial registration period nears. USCIS will also conduct public engagements and other outreach activities to ensure registrants and interested parties are familiar with the new registration system.”

The initial registration window is slated to run from March 1, 2020 through March 20, 2020. During the registration period, H-1B employers will be required to submit an electronic registration with USCIS outlining the basic details of the proposed petitions they will file on behalf of foreign national H-1B beneficiaries. USCIS will then conduct a random lottery based on the registrations received, and notify all registrants in advance of the H-1B filing window whether or not they have been selected in the random lottery process. Those who are selected in the lottery will be permitted to file H-1B petitions, and those who are rejected will not be permitted to file.

The intent behind the new H-1B registration is to streamline the H-1B lottery process. Rather than having employers submit fully prepared petitions only to be rejected, the new process would limit the number of petitions filed to the 85,000 that USCIS actually will adjudicate.

At this time, USCIS has not yet announced how the implementation of the new registration fee will impact the actual window during which H-1B petitions can be filed once they are selected in the random lottery process; however, we anticipate that the filing window will shift to a later date.