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A Better Partnership


Jan 2019
January 31, 2019

Changes Coming to the H-1B Visa Lottery System

Employers wishing to sponsor H-1B visas for foreign nationals with U.S. advanced degrees will have an increased chance of obtaining those visas due to a new rule published today by the Department of Homeland Security. The new rule is effective for the upcoming H-1B filing season in April. The new rule also provides for a much anticipated registration system for the H-1B lotteries, but implementation of the registration system will be delayed until 2020.

To give greater preference to H-1B candidates with advanced degrees, the new rule reverses the order of the two H-1B visa lotteries – the lottery for foreign nationals holding U.S. advanced degrees and the general lottery for those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher from any country. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) estimates that the new reversed lottery order could result in up to 16 percent more of the available H-1Bs going to foreign nationals with U.S. advanced degrees. However, the size of the actual increase depends greatly on the total number of H-1B petitions filed and the mix between advanced-degree petitions and bachelor’s petitions.

Employers seeking H-1B visas this year should contact us soon to begin preparation. The USCIS generally accepts filings during the first five business days of April. Last year, employers filed nearly 200,000 petitions for 85,000 available H-1Bs. We anticipate similar demand for 2019.

H-1Bs can be a useful tool for employers in filling hard-to-fill positions in information technology, engineering, science, and other fields requiring at least a bachelor’s degree. In particular, employers who currently employ recent university graduates pursuant to Optional Practical Training should consider filing H-1B petitions for those foreign national employees. In addition, employers should consider H-1B filings for employees in TN status, due to ongoing uncertainty surrounding NAFTA, which authorizes the TN visa category. H-1Bs are also available for foreign nationals currently residing outside the United States. In some cases, employers and foreign nationals can obtain H-1Bs without entering the H-1B lottery.

If you would like to discuss the H-1B option or other employer-sponsored visa options, please contact Warner attorneys Angela Jenkins or Michael Wooley.

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