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H-1B Visa 2020-2021 Complete Guide: News, Cap, Lottery, Pre-Registration, FAQs (Updated 6/24/2020)

H-1B 2020 Complete Guide

H-1B Visa 2020 Cap Season Background

The H-1B cap 2020-2021 filing season is right around the corner, so it’s time to take another look at this popular visa. With many new changes to the lottery, there are only a few short months left before it’s time to file. If you were not selected in last year’s cap, then it is in your best interest to use this guide as your one-stop shop for all your H-1B info, news, and updates. The H-1B was created for skilled professionals with at least bachelor’s degrees to work in the U.S. in fields such as computer science, architecture, medicine, dentistry, engineering, accounting, and more.

Our team of highly-experienced attorneys specializes in H-1B and employment-based immigration and has helped countless skilled workers from all over the world and from all backgrounds obtain H-1B visas. We want to keep you apprised of the latest news concerning this highly sought-after visa and will be regularly updating this post to keep you up-to-date on the H-1B cap 2020-21 filing season. For more information about the H-1B visa or to see how we can take the stress and worry out of your immigration experience, you can contact us directly to see if you qualify for a free consultation.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (3/21/2020): Premium processing has been temporarily suspended for all cap-subject petitions in the 2021 season.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (3/30/2020): The USCIS has just announced that it has received sufficient H-1B registrations and has successfully conducted the 2021 lottery. To find out how you can see whether your registration was selected, read this update.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (6/24/2020): President Trump has just signed a proclamation suspending the stamping of all H-1B, L, and J visas in an effort to decrease competition in the recovering U.S. job market after COVID-19. You can read more about the proclamation and its impact in our recent update.

See below the list of topics covered in our H-1B visa 2020 guide. Feel free to click on the numbered links below to jump straight to the topics you’re most interested in.

Overview of H-1B 2020 Cap Lottery

 

H1B 2019 Rejection Notice

H-1B Rejection Notice example

Historically, employers filed their full H-1B cap-subject petitions with the USCIS, after
which, the USCIS would select eligible petitions through a random selection process.

This process resulted in unnecessary paperwork and mailing costs for both petitioners and the agency. This is no longer the process.

Employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the fiscal year 2020-21 cap, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay the associated $10 H-1B registration fee.

Under this new process, employers seeking H-1B workers subject to the cap, or their authorized representatives, will complete a registration process that requires only basic information about their company and each requested worker. The USCIS will open an initial registration period from March 1st through March 20th, 2020.

The H-1B random selection process, if needed, will then be run on
those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.

The regular cap lottery will now be conducted first, followed by the U.S. master’s cap lottery. The new drawing order is said to give individuals with a U.S. master’s degree an even higher chance of being selected.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: H-1B 2020-2021 Pre-Registration System and Master’s Quota Lottery Reordering

We are going to discuss some changes that are in the works for the H-1B visa cap this year and in years to come. On April 1st, 2019, the DHS implemented a final rule, which made two significant changes to the H-1B visa lottery process. 

(1) Online Pre-registration

This year, the USCIS will be using an online pre-registration system to make the H-1B lottery a more manageable process. Rather than submit a petition to enter a beneficiary into the lottery, employers will register their beneficiary with the USCIS database before the start of the filing window. The registration window will open on March 1, 2020, and end on March 20, 2020. Petitions will still be used, but only once a beneficiary has been selected in the lottery. Here is how this system will work:

  • Employers will pre-register their alien workers with the USCIS between March 1, 2020, and March 20, 2020. This will involve inputting the information about the workers into the database.
  • The USCIS will conduct the lottery and choose the beneficiaries that will go on to filing and processing (still 65,000 for the regular cap and 20,000 for the master’s cap).
  • The employers of those registrations that were selected will then file their petitions with the USCIS for processing along with the appropriate filing fees and supporting documents within 90 days or according to deadlines set by USCIS.
  • If the petition is approved, then the H-1B visa will be issued and the beneficiary’s start date will be October 1st of that same year.

Therefore, employers wishing to file petitions for H-1B workers do not file petitions in order to enter the cap. The USCIS states that this new system will help them expedite the H-1B process and avoid having to handle and sift through hundreds of thousands of petitions. This also prevents them from having to return the packets and fees to all unselected petitioners.

How to Register

The way to register involves creating an online account with the USCIS on or after February 24th. While you cannot create an account before this date, the account creation option will be available throughout the whole registration period.

At noon on March 1st, the registration will open and those who create or have created accounts can submit their registrations along with the non-refundable $10 fee. This registration submission window will remain open until March 20th at noon, after which time the USCIS will conduct the lottery starting with the regular cap and ending with the master’s cap.

The USCIS intends to notify winners of their selection in the lottery on or by March 31st. If your petition is selected, the earliest that you can file your petition is April 1st.

Rules for Submission

Because you are not submitting a petition and therefore do not need to demonstrate the beneficiary’s eligibility, registration has only a few rules in order to avoid outright denial. 

  1. Your registration must be submitted after March 1st at noon and before March 20th at noon. Any registrations submitted before or after this window will not be accepted.
  2. Each sponsor may only submit one registration for each beneficiary. If a single sponsor submits more than one registration for the same beneficiary, all registrations submitted by that sponsor for that beneficiary will be considered invalid and subsequently denied.
    1. However, a single sponsor can submit registrations for multiple beneficiaries and;
    2. A single beneficiary can have registrations submitted by multiple sponsors

How Will I Know If I’ve Been Selected?

When you look at your registration online, you will see one of four statuses attached to your case. They are:

    • Submitted: This simply means that you have successfully submitted your petition. However, your status may continue to read “submitted” until the end of the fiscal year. This means that your registration is still under consideration and does not mean that your registration has been selected or denied.
    • Selected: Your registration has been chosen in the lottery and the sponsor is able to file an I-129 petition after April 1st.
    • Not Selected: This means that your registration was not chosen. Keep in mind that all registrations that are not denied will either be “Selected” or remain as “Submitted” until the end of the fiscal year. Therefore, if your registration is not chosen, you will not see “Not Selected” on your registration until October 1st.
    • Denied: This only happens if a sponsor submitted more than one registration for the same beneficiary. In this case, all registrations submitted by this sponsor for this beneficiary will be denied.

Remember, after March 20th, all registrations will say “Submitted”. After March 31st, some will be changed to “Selected”, some will be changed to “Denied”, and some will remain at “Submitted”. If the USCIS needs to increase the registrations for either cap during the remainder of the fiscal year, then it will select more registrations from the “Submitted” pool. After October 1st, the remaining “Submitted” registrations will be changed to “Not Selected”.

(2) New Master’s Cap Order

Under guidance from the Buy American and Hire American executive order, the USCIS has implemented some changes to the H-1B process to give preference and priority to highly-skilled and highly-paid workers. One such change involves the order in which the lotteries take place.

The USCIS has, in years past, conducted the master’s lottery first, then entered the unselected petitions into the regular cap. This new process involves a complete reversal of that order. Instead, the regular lottery will be conducted first, including all cap-subject registrations. Then, all unselected master’s registrations will be entered into the master’s lottery.

The USCIS is anticipating that this will increase the chances of master’s registrations being selected by 16%. Here is how that works.

Previously, the master’s cap would be conducted first, meaning that all cap-subject master’s registrations would be entered into the master’s lottery. If your registration was not selected, then it would be entered into the regular cap to compete with tens of thousands of registrations.

Under this new rule, the regular cap is conducted first. Because it includes all cap-subject registrations (including those for master’s degree-holders), some master’s registrations are selected in the regular cap without ever entering the master’s lottery. After that, all unselected master’s registrations will be entered into the master’s lottery, which will be smaller than it would be under the normal order since some master’s registrations have already been selected, shrinking the pool of competition.

How the Lottery Works & H-1B 2021 Lottery Predictions

The H-1B visa 2021 process is rather simple when broken down. Under the regular cap, 65,000 registrations are randomly selected by a computer. An additional 20,000 registrations will also be selected under the advanced degree exemption. 6,800 will be set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore, according to the Free Trade Agreement.

What happens after the lottery selection?

Once an employer receives notice that the registration has been selected for further processing, the employer will have to file the H-1B petition with all supporting evidence during the period allowed by the USCIS. The package will be sent to a service center to be approved or rejected. Then, a tracking identifier called an EAC number is assigned to each petition.

The first 3 letters of your petition’s EAC number indicate the location of the service center that is processing your petition. For example, WAC would mean the Western Adjudication Center in California. The two numbers that appear next correlate to the year followed by the working day. The last five numbers indicate your case number. An example would look like this: WAC-18-021-56974.

If you have any questions about this process, contact the immigration lawyer that helped you file the petition for your H-1B visa.

Eligibility Requirement for Specialty Occupation

In order to be eligible for the specialty occupation criteria the H-1B job must adhere to one of the criteria below:

  • The job must require at minimum a Bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent).
  • The required degree for the H-1B job is considered common to the industry.

OR

  • The position can only be executed by an individual holding a degree due to its complexity.
  • It is normal for the employer to require a degree (or equivalent) for the position because the skills are so specialized.

H1B 2019 Cap educational requirement

Not Eligible for an H-1B Visa? Other options…

If you’ve determined that you are not eligible for an H-1B visa based on the aforementioned points, consider filing for an H-2B visa or even an L-1 visa may be a viable option. An L-1B visa is also a non-immigrant visa option that permits employers based both in the United States and abroad to transfer personnel from the foreign offices to the operations based in the U.S. for up to 5 years.

The J-1 visa might also serve as an alternative. Instead of being tied to an employer, the J-1 is based on a government-approved program. Students, doctors, counselors, and nannies are among the many occupational programs that can take advantage of this visa.

Cap Exempt Petitions

What exactly are cap-exempt petitions? We get this question often so it’s important to address it. A cap-exempt petition is one that was previously counted against the cap.

It can also be one that was used as a way to extend the H-1B worker’s time in the U.S. or to change the terms. Notice that some positions with qualified workers are not required to be subject to the annual quota even if you (the petitioner) have already been counted against it.

However, there are three main categories of occupations that are considered cap-exempt from the start:

  • Jobs for an institution of higher education
  • Jobs for non-profit organizations that are associated with an institution of higher education
  • Jobs for governmental research centers

The fact that there are cap-exempt jobs may tempt some to think that, to circumvent the annual cap, they can simply petition under a cap-exempt job and switch once they have entered the country.

However, it is important to note that whenever you change employers, you need to have that employer file another petition. If that employer is not cap-exempt, then the petition will be entered into the lottery. If it is not selected or it is denied, you will not be able to make this transfer. Therefore, changing from a cap-exempt to a cap-subject petition as a way to get around the H-1B cap is not possible.

Premium Processing – How Does This Work?

The premium processing service for all cap-subject H-1B 2021 petitions has been temporarily suspended.

Premium processing service allows an employment-based petition/application to be expedited. The USCIS specifically provides 15 calendar days for processing those petitions or the USCIS will issue a refund of the service fee of $1,440.

It is important to note that purchasing premium processing only reduces the processing time for your I-129 petition. It does not make you cap-exempt nor does it guarantee you a spot in the lottery. If your petition happens to be selected, then your start date will still be October 1st like all other applicants.

Who is eligible? The USCIS has developed a complete chart of designated eligible classifications.

H-1B Visa Fees 2020-21

With the implementation of the new registration system, the fee structure has also undergone some changes. In the past, employers needed to file all of the fees associated with a petition in order to enter the lottery. Now, employers only need to file the registration fee of $10 in order to enter the lottery. However, if an alien’s registration is chosen, his or her employer will be responsible for the following fees:

  • Base Filing Fee: $460
  • USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee: $500
  • ACWIA Education and Training Fee: $750 for employers with less than 25 employees and $1500 for employers with greater than 25 employees
  • Public Law 114-113 Fee: $4,000
  • Premium Processing (optional): $1,440
  • Attorney fee:
      • Since the stages are now tiered and only certain companies will eventually file the complete petitions, our legal fees will be as follows:
        • Tier One – $850 for the initial registration process which includes all preliminary case analysis required to file the case (SOC, duties, documents, educational check, evaluations, if necessary, FEIN, etc. required if the case is selected)
        • Tier Two – $1,350 will be due if the case is selected in the lottery for filing, which includes all form/support letter preparation plus case filing within the timeframe
        • Tier Three – $500-$1,500 will be the cost of an RFE response, should one later be issued on the case 

Here’s one scenario to illustrate how the fee would be applied to a foreign IT firm. Say, for example, Company X has more than 50 employees and has more than 50% of people on the H-1B visa. If they are filing for the H-1B visa with premium processing than they would be responsible for the base ($460), fraud fee ($500), Training fee (if applicable), new $4,000 fee, premium processing ($1,440) and attorney fee.

Keep in mind that the Public Law fee is only applicable to employers that have more than 50 employees. Also, more than half of those employees must be H-1B holders for the fee to apply. Speak with your immigration attorney to determine exactly which fees should be paid.

H-1B Visa Sponsors

Finding the appropriate H-1B visa sponsor is often one of the biggest challenges. One viable source to find a suitable sponsor is through an H-1B Visa Sponsor Database. You can filter your search by city or zip code and also see information detailing what sorts of jobs they have filed in past years.

*Please note that we take no responsibility for the accuracy of the information in the link above.

American Universities are a great place to look because academic institutions are not subject to the annual cap restriction so they can sponsor anyone if they think they’re suitable for the job.

What’s Next?

If your registration is selected in the lottery, then your employer will need to file a petition, which will move on to the adjudication stage, meaning that it will be processed. An evaluating immigration officer will decide if your H-1B case is approved or denied/rejected. If it is approved, then you will have one of two options:

  • Simply waiting until October 1st for your H-1B status to automatically apply as soon as you start working. This is only available if you are already in the U.S. under a different nonimmigrant visa status and can maintain that status until you begin working.
  • Going through consular processing. If you are outside the U.S. or your current nonimmigrant status will expire before October 1st, you will need to make an appointment with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

When you go to your appointment, you must have already completed and paid for the DS-160 online nonimmigrant application. Be sure to bring a printout of the confirmation page and the payment receipt. The DS-160 costs $190.

You may or may not be required to participate in a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. The USCIS reserves the right to interview whomever they choose before they enter the country. Also, because of the increased regulations and scrutiny surrounding the H-1B recently, it would be wise to expect an interview.

At your H-1B interview, the officer will ask you basic questions about yourself, your job, your employer, and your travel history. The best advice is to answer all questions quickly and honestly. Saying “I don’t know” is always preferable to lying, which could have serious repercussions in the future.

H-1B to Green Card

One of the many benefits of the H-1B visa is that it is considered a dual intent visa, meaning that it can be used as a means to apply for a green card. This is in contrast to other common nonimmigrant visas such as the TN and J-1 visas that could be jeopardized if you attempt to seek immigrant status.

If you are on the path from an H-1B to a green card, here is a quick rundown of the steps you should take:

  • First, identify which employer you are going to use for this green card. In most cases, you need a U.S. employer to petition for you. This employer can be your current employer or an entirely new one. You should also determine what your position will be and what your job duties will entail.
  • Second, decide which employment-based green card you are going to apply for. For example, a high-level researcher may want to consider applying for the EB-1B green card while a computer programmer might have better luck with the EB-2 green card. Work with your attorney to find the best option for your case.
  • After that, your employer will likely need to obtain a PERM Labor Certification on your behalf. This is a concept that is similar to the LCA, but the PERM requires your employer to run an ad campaign for your position to determine if there are any qualified U.S. workers you would be displacing.
  • Then, your employer can file an I-140 petition for you. The date that the USCIS receives this petition will be marked as your priority date.
  • It will be your responsibility to consistently check the visa bulletin released monthly by the Department of State. You need to compare your priority date with the final action dates given in the bulletin. Once your priority date matches or passes the final action date provided in your category and country, your priority date will be considered current and you will be able to move onto the next step when your I-140 is approved.
  • When your priority date is current, you can then submit an I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status. If this is approved, then your status will automatically transfer from an H-1B to a green card.


H-1B Lottery 2019 filing mistakes

Avoid These Common Filing Errors

There are a number of issues and filing errors we see repeated time and time again which can interfere with getting an H-1B approval.

Choosing an incorrect I-129 start date

Sometimes, during the filing process, applicants will choose the incorrect start date on the I-129. Check with your attorney to ensure that all dates, wages, and important details are accurate to avoid having your petition denied.

Incomplete Job Description

To ensure that your job description meets all the necessary criteria, it’s best to have it thoroughly reviewed by a qualified H-1B visa lawyer.

Untimely Filing

Submitting your petition after the date that was issued to you by the USCIS can result in a delay in processing. To make sure that you do not create this delay, file your petition with plenty of time to spare.

It is important to note that the USCIS service center only considers a submission as timely if it reaches the center before the expected date. Because your petition will first reach a P.O. box, be sure to submit it well before the last day to guarantee that the service center will have time to collect it.

Labor Condition Application Delays

We’ve seen cases where the iCert visa portal system doesn’t always recognize the employer/company’s Federal Employer Identification Number or FEIN.  This occurs because a pre-verification has not been completed prior to the LCA being submitted.

Unacceptable Delivery Method

Adjudicating service centers are very particular about the way that petitions are submitted. Delivering your petition by hand or through some other unconventional method can result in not having your petition processed.

To ensure that you are using an approved delivery method, send your petition via the United States Postal Service, Federal Express (FedEx), United Parcel Service (UPS), or some other bonded delivery service. Consult with your immigration attorney to learn which services are considered bonded.

Choosing the Wrong Service Center

The last issue that often comes up is filing with the wrong service center. Petitions which do not include the necessary fee will be denied and those sent to the incorrect service center will also not be processed correctly. Be sure to write a separate check for each one of the filing fees and sign all checks prior to sending.

H-1B Challenges

Because of the exact nature of the immigration process, complications can easily arise from unique circumstances. Working closely with an immigration attorney can help you decide if these challenges apply to you and what you can do about them.

If you are the founder, co-founder, or sole proprietor of the company that you wish to work through, then you will be fulfilling the role of both the employer and the employee, which is not accepted by the USCIS. If the structure of your company allows for a board of directors to pay you instead of you paying yourself, you may be able to secure an H-1B visa as a business owner.

It is possible, however, for you to start a business on an H-1B visa. You must establish an entity (such as a board of directors or a CEO) that has control over your salary, your tasks, and your employment status. That entity must petition on your behalf. No matter what, you cannot self-petition on an H-1B.

Another issue develops when the employer that has petitioned on your behalf is a small business. The LCA has particular rules about how much an employee can be paid. If the small business does not have the capital to fulfill these requirements and also pay the petition filing fees, then you will not be able to file.

H-1B Denial

It goes without saying that the USCIS often denies H-1B visas to those it deems unqualified. However, by taking the right precautions, you can optimize your chances of approval (provided that your petition is selected in the lottery, of course).

The first thing to realize about this process is that there are essentially two refusal states: rejection and denial. These hinge on the two-pronged approval process that each H-1B petition goes through. The first prong involves having an immigration officer look over your case to determine whether:

  • All of your information is complete, consistent, and accurate
  • You have provided enough evidence and documentation
  • Your employer has paid the appropriate fees to the appropriate places

If your petition does not pass this phase, then it will likely be rejected without a refund. Fortunately, the answer to this issue is often to simply re-file with the help of an experienced H-1B attorney.

If your petition passes this phase, however, it will go on to phase two, which means that the officer will determine if your evidence, background, occupation, and qualifications meet the H-1B visa requirements for 2020. If not, then you may experience an H-1B denial. In this case, re-filing may not be the solution.

Legal Motions

It is occasionally possible for petitioners to file legal motions for an unfavorable outcome. There are two main motions that can be made here:

  • Motion to reconsider – this is done if you and your attorney believe that the immigration officer evaluating your case erroneously denied your H-1B petition.
  • Motion to reopen – this is done when you have acquired new evidence or documentation that would support your case if evaluated along with the principle evidence.

Appeals

In contrast to the legal motions, which work with the evaluating officer, an appeal goes through a third party for an unfavorable decision, the Administrative Appeals Office. Unfortunately, the USCIS will usually send you a denial notice that includes a line prohibiting any appeals.

H-1B Requests for Evidence

Occasionally, the USCIS will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) rather than deny your petition outright. If the evaluating officer feels that some supporting documentation would make your case clear, an RFE is usually the way to go. If you receive an RFE, you will need to respond within the given time window (usually up to three months). There are a few ways to respond to this:

  • Full response – this means that you submit all of the requested evidence simultaneously with your response.
  • Partial response –  these are the most common responses. In a partial response, you only submit some of the requested evidence either because you do not wish to submit it all or you simply do not have the evidence requested.
  • No response – you can always withdraw your application.

In any case, your first step should be to bring your RFE to your immigration attorney to decide what to do next. The USCIS may be questioning the legitimacy of your employment, the relationship between you and your employer, the nature of your specialty position, or even the credentials of your degree. The response should fully argue why the submitted evidence addresses all issues brought up by the USCIS.

H-1B Amendments

There are a few cases in which you would need to have a new I-129 petition filed on your behalf. These include changing employers and extending your H-1B status, among other things. However, if you are remaining with the same employer but some aspect of your position is changing considerably, you may need to have your employer submit an H-1B amendment so that your petition on file can reflect the most accurate information.

The main understanding is that an H-1B amendment is required for situations in which a “material change” has taken place. Usually, this means that your job duties or your job location has changed significantly. If you have gotten a promotion on your H-1B, you may or may not need to have an amendment filed. It all depends on whether or not your job duties have changed. Just make sure that your new position meets the same H-1B requirements as the old one and is related to your degree.

If you have an I-140 on file for an employment-based green card and you are changing your job, make sure that everything is in order in regards to the job that you are using for your immigrant visa.

Grace Period

If you are currently under H-1B status and you lose the job through which your status was obtained, this could cause difficulties in your immigration journey. For some other visas, this may mean being considered “out of status”, which could accumulate and cause you to be deported and barred from re-entry for a certain number of years.

However, H-1B holders get a 60-day grace period that begins the day that your sponsor is no longer your employer. This period is given so that you can find a new H-1B sponsor, change your status to a different visa, or prepare to leave the U.S.

H-1B Visa 2020-21 Under Trump

When campaigning for president, Donald Trump was very vocal about his plans for immigration—the H-1B visa in particular. Seeing the H-1B as a means for large agencies to hire cheap labor, the Trump administration seeks to take a much closer look at this particular immigration system and to create regulations that could very well impact how the H-1B visa works in 2020.

One thing that has been noted from the past H-1B lottery is that there has been a large increase in the number of Requests for Evidence from previous years. In the first quarter of 2019, more than 60% of all H-1B cases received an RFE. Additionally, in that same period, the H-1B denial rate was as high as 32%. Contrast this with the 6% denial rate in 2015, and it’s clear that things have been changing for the H-1B landscape.

What this tells us is that the USCIS is scrutinizing H-1B cases more heavily than it has in the past. Where some cases and situations may have made it through the adjudication process without a hitch, those same cases are being stopped by RFEs. More evidence is now required to get an H-1B visa.

What About the Spouses of H-1B Holders?

The Obama administration established a rule in 2015 allowing those with H-4 visas (the spouses and dependents of H-1B holders) to obtain employment authorization so that they could work while in the U.S. provided that their H-1B holder had a pending I-140 petition for a green card.

However, it has recently come to light that this rule is under consideration again, as the new administration may decide to rescind this privilege. There are many speculations for what this may mean for current and future H-4 holders, and very few of them are good. The abolition of this rule would essentially bar the spouses and dependents of H-1B holders from working until they received work visas or green cards of their own. The jury is still out, however, and we wait to see what this decision has in store.

H1b Visa 2017 Season

H-1B Visa Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some H-1B visa FAQs that our office receives. Should your question not be mentioned below please don’t hesitate to contact our law offices.

If I would like to work in the United States, can I just apply for an H-1B visa by myself?

You must have a job offer from a U.S. company or organization to apply for an H-1B visa. If you are a business owner, you will need to set up an entity within your company that has control over your employment. That entity must file the petition on your behalf.

If I have an Associates’s (two-year) degree plus one year of work experience as an engineer, can I qualify for the H-1B visa?

You must have at minimum a U.S. bachelor’s (four-year) degree or its equivalent in order to qualify for the H-1B visa. In regards to work experience, three years of working is equal to one year of university so say you had six years of work experience plus two years of college, you could qualify. Moreover, your work experience and the degree should be relevant to your occupational title.

I currently have a job with a public school system as a teacher. Are schools subject to the annual quota?

Only if the school district has an approved petition based on the University cap exemption after 2006.

Are there provisions for the continuity of H-1B petitions in case there is a restriction of the company?

There is continuity in this case—in other words, an amended H-1B petition isn’t required when a new entity takes over the interests and responsibilities of the originally approved employer and whereas the conditions of employment are the same.

How does my employer (under section 105 portability provisions) complete the I-9 verification requirement?

This example is comparable to the 240-day grace period of 8 C.F.R. section 274.12(b)(20), which permits employment with the same employer for up to 240 days after an extension petition is filed.

Can I file multiple or duplicate petitions? What happens if I do?

Based on the interim rule which was announced in 2008, employers may not file more than once or duplicate H-1B visa petitions for the same employee. In order to ensure fairness, USCIS will deny multiple or duplicate petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker.

Will I be refunded the fees for filing twice?

You will not receive a refund for these filing fees. The only time that a refund will be issued is:

  • If the USCIS has asked for an unnecessary form that required a fee
  • If the USCIS has asked for a fee that was greater than what is listed
  • If the USCIS fails to process a petition filed with premium processing in the 15-day time period.

Where do I mail my H-1B petition?

Your lawyer should have the information for the correct service center to file with which will depend on the beneficiary’s work locations specified on the petition application. You can also see this website for more information.

When is the H-1B visa 2019 lottery date expected?

Last year the automated lottery took place on April 13th. While we can’t ensure that it’ll be on the same date for the H-1B visas 2019 season, we do predict it’ll be shortly after the season opens.

What are the advantages of preparing early?

There are many advantages to preparing early. As with most situations in life, when you plan ahead of time you’re better able to respond to challenges down the road. When it comes to employers, they can begin considering which one of their workers might require H-1B cap-subject filings. Foreign nationals and their respective employers should work side-by-side throughout the process to ensure all criteria are met.

Why work with an attorney for the registration process?

First, the USCIS will not consider a cap-subject H-1B petition to be properly filed unless it is based on a valid, selected registration for the same beneficiary and the appropriate fiscal year.

Proper registration includes ensuring the candidate is classified correctly under the master’s or bachelor’s cap. Only certain individuals qualify for the master’s cap despite having U.S. master’s degrees. Only a certain number of years of work experience equate to a bachelor’s degree. Corrections cannot be made to the registrations after they have been submitted.  Incorrect registrations can result in case denials if the case is selected for filing.  

Second, although petitioners can register multiple aliens during a single online submission, a petitioner may only submit one registration per beneficiary in any fiscal year. If a petitioner submits more than one registration per beneficiary in the same fiscal year, all registrations filed by that petitioner relating to that beneficiary for that fiscal year will be considered invalid.

Third, petitioners have a small window to ensure the cases have the proper strategies and all documents required. Under the Buy American Hire American Executive Order, both denials and Requests for Evidence have increased tremendously. Having the proper case foundation at the outset is important whether the case is ultimately selected or not. 

Last, there have been predictions that the registration system is not equipped to handle the number of anticipated registrations. In the event of a system failure, petitioners would be required to file paper petitions. Using an attorney will ensure that you are prepared for anything that may occur. 

Hiring a qualified attorney to ensure that stage one of the process is handled correctly will future prevent issues if the case is selected for filing.

What is the length of stay on an H-1B?

This visa is granted for up to three years with the option to extend it to a maximum of six years. There are select cases in which you may be granted a stay longer than six years. This is usually in conjunction with a pending I-140 petition so that you can maintain your status.

What are the H-1B visa fees?

The petitioner and/or sponsoring employer are responsible for paying the following fees to USCIS:

  • Employer Sponsorship fee
  • Premium Processing Fee (optional)
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fees
  • Filing Fee

What fees are my employer responsible for?

Per immigration law, the employer is responsible for paying the training fee (when it applies) and the fraud fee.

If I filed for premium processing could I avoid being subject to the cap?

Filing for premium processing does not make you exempt from the cap. Premium processing is simply a way to expedite the process. The USCIS specifically ensures 15 calendar days for processing those petitions or the USCIS will issue a refund of the service fee.

Who is responsible for setting the cap amounts?

Congress determines the current annual cap for the H-1B visa category. Also remember that in accordance with the Free Trade Agreement, 6,800 visas are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore.

Certain H-1B workers who perform services for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam may also be exempt from the cap under certain circumstances.

What is a Labor Condition Application (LCA)?

A Labor Condition Application is what your employer must certify and send at the time of filing your petition. A copy of this document is also accepted. Always be mindful of the LCA processing times and plan your documentation accordingly.

To get an LCA, your employer must make all of the four attestations required for this application:

  1. That the H-1B employee will be paid the prevailing wage for the requested position according to the geographic location of the position.
  2. That the employment of the H-1B employee will not negatively impact the working conditions of the current employees working for the employer.
  3. That the employees that are currently working for the employer have been notified of the intent to hire the H-1B employee.
  4. That the location in which the H-1B employee will be working is not under a strike or a lockdown.

Ultimately, the LCA serves to protect the current employees from incursions on their employment. By attesting that your employment is not to subvert or replace the work of current employees, this tells the USCIS that your employment will benefit the U.S. job economy rather than damage it.

Note that if the application is certified for multiple workers, you’re required to give the name and case receipt number of any worker who has previously used the LCA.

Am I permitted to have more than one sponsor for my H-1B Visa?

According to current regulations, if you as the foreign worker intend to perform services for more than one employer, each one is required to file a separate petition. If you then receive both petitions approved and select one employer but later decide to leave that employer for the second one, then no new petition is necessary.

However, if you choose to transfer your employment to an employer that has not yet filed a petition, you will need to have that employer file a new petition on your behalf.

How do I speed up or expedite my H-1B transfer?

An H-1B transfer must follow the same process as you would for filing a new petition. One big difference between the regular H-1B filing and a transfer is that a transfer is not subject to the cap since the individual already has H-1B status. Because of this, premium processing may be an effective way to shorten your H-1B transfer processing time in 2020.

Will the USCIS suspend premium processing in 2020?

Although the USCIS has suspended premium processing for H-1B visas in the past, we predict that it will not be suspended in 2020. With the new pre-registration system going into effect, there will be far fewer petitions ultimately submitted (since only selected registrations will require petitions). Therefore, there will be fewer petitions submitted with premium processing, which should not require a suspension.

Can I work for my employer anywhere in the country once my status is approved?

When USCIS approved your H-1B visa, they took into consideration the specific location of employment as well as the qualifications the employer-specific as well as the prevailing wage for the area.

During your employment, if the worksite changes, you must submit an amendment with certification for the new location. In some situations, you may be exempt from filing the amendment but it’s best to contact your lawyer if the terms of your employment suddenly change.

Is there a reason some H-1B petitions take longer than others?

Many people have questions regarding this topic. Say for example two petitions are filed at the same time. That doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be approved within the same time frame.

Why? Each USCIS service center has a different workload for H-1B visas in 2020 so it’s hard to know when the paperwork will be processed. For cases that are short on time, it’s best to consider premium processing.

How Can We Help with your H-1B Visa 2020 Case?

We have an excellent track record of gaining approvals in complex H-1B cases, including those sponsored by startup companies. We specialize in employment-based immigration and our attorneys have extensive experience in devising creative strategies to overcome unique challenges faced by candidates from smaller technology companies among many others. We ensure that all the paperwork and documentation is completed accurately and presented in the best possible way to maximize your chances of approval.

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