Guide to H1B Visa Process and Updates in 2019

H1B Visa Questions and Answers

The H1B visa filing season for the fiscal year 2020 is about to begin on April 01, 2019. The aspirants and petitioners may expect petition selection through H1B lottery 2020, similar to what has been happening for the past many years. However, the Trump Administration’s ‘Buy American Hire American’ executive order is ready to introduce some noteworthy changes in the H1B application process. It is the right time to get familiar with everything important about H1B visas in 2019.

H1B Visa 2019 Latest News Regarding Registration

Considering the voluminous H1B visa petitions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed electronic pre-registration before filing the actual petition in 2011. However, the proposal didn’t get implemented at that time. The Trump Administration revived the proposal in the Spring 2018 Regulatory Agenda. It was expected to be a part of H1B visa process steps for 2019 filing season.

So, what’s the proposal? According to the current process, the U.S. employers (petitioners) would submit H1B packets on April 01. If the number of petitions exceeds the H1B visa caps, the USCIS would conduct a lottery and select and reject the petitions according to the lottery results. The new rule would require the employers to first register with the USCIS electronically much before April 01. The agency would then select registrations through the lottery and then, the employers with select registrations would file the petitions within the designated time period.

According to the latest updates, the USCIS is still in the process of implementing and testing the electronic filing system. Thus, the registration rule is suspended for one year and is likely to be applicable for the H1B filing season of 2020.

H1B Visa Lottery Order Reversed

H1B visa updates for 2019 filing season introduces a significant change in the lottery order. Till the last filing season, the lottery was first conducted for the 20,000 cap for the US Master’s degree holders. Then, the lottery was conducted for the regular quota of 65,000 which consisted of Bachelor’s degree holders and the unselected petitions from the Master’s quota.

In 2019, the order has been reversed. Now, the lottery for the 65,000 cap regular quota (consisting of Bachelor’s degree holders as well as the US Master’s degree holders) would be conducted first. Then, the unselected petitions of Master’s degree holders would be added to the quota of 20,000 for the second lottery. The purpose is to ensure that the more number of Master’s degree holders fill the available job positions. The new rule would increase the chances for the US Master’s degree holders by 16%.

H1B Premium Processing in 2019

In order to expedite the H1B visa processing time, the USCIS allows the H1B petitioners as well as the H1B beneficiaries to opt for premium processing (at an additional cost). However, the option was suspended for the 2018 filing season till September 2018. The suspension was extended further to February 2019. It was done with the intention to clear the backlog of the long-pending petitions from the previous seasons. However, the premium processing was resumed on January 28, 2019. It remains unclear whether the option would be available for the petitions filed for the 2019 filing season or not.

The USICS increased the H1B premium processing fee to $1,410 starting October 01, 2018. The fee has been increased by 14.92 percent from the earlier $1,225, citing the rise in inflation since the last increment that occurred in 2010.

Other Possible H1B Amendments under Trump Administration

  • H-4 EAD:

    The rule according to which the H-4 visa holders (mainly, the spouses of H1B visa holders) stand eligible to apply for the Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) with the aim to work in the U.S. is likely to be revoked. If this happens, hundreds of thousands of H-4 holders would have to look for other opportunities to find jobs.

  • Increased RFEs:

    There has been a 45% increase in the number of Request for Evidence H1B instances since the introduction of ‘America First’ agenda by the Trump Administration. It can be considered as the administration’s attempt for tighter scrutiny over the selection of foreign workers.

  • Contracting Firms:

    The Department of Labor requires the outsourcing/staffing firms, who work as contractors for the U.S. employers, to fill the names of the companies where the selected H1B worker would be working. The rule was introduced to keep a watch on how different applicants enter the visa pool. It may dispirit the U.S. employers to outsource their staffing needs to the contractors.

H1B visa filing date 2019 is April 01 (Monday). The petition accepting window is likely to remain open for 5 days after which the usual lottery process would be conducted. In order to increase the chances of getting H1B visa 2019, the employers must find the right candidates and vice versa. Also, avoid petition filing mistakes with the help of an immigration attorney.