On March 19, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap season, start dates for premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions, and the launch of its new H-1B data hub, while reminding petitioners of its new H-1B cap selection process. Below are highlights of the changes.
Start of FY 2020 cap season. USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap on April 1, 2019, and will reject any FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 1. Form M-735, Optional Checklist for Form I-129 H-1B Filings (PDF, 262 KB), provides detailed information on how to complete and submit a FY 2020 H-1B petition.
Premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject petitions. Premium processing will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season "so USCIS can best manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it as in previous years," the agency said. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. The second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.
Starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately. USCIS said it will begin premium processing for these petitions by May 20, 2019, and will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions. If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with a FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907. Until premium processing begins for these petitions, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 that is not filed concurrently with a cap-subject Form I-129. Petitioners must appropriately select response "b" for Item 4 in Part 2 of Form I-129 to be eligible to concurrently file Form I-907, USCIS said.
Premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not start until at least June 2019, the agency noted. Cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing requests concurrently with their H-1B petitions. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing by filing Form I-907 once premium processing begins for this group. USCIS said it will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status.
At this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available, USCIS said.
Note: Reaction to the guidance has been mixed. Some say they are not filing for premium processing before lottery selection. Given the costs of applying for premium processing ($1,410 as of this writing), their suggestion is that cases only be premium processed once they have been selected in the lottery. By this reasoning, even if you are filing a change of status H-1B petition, filing for premium processing concurrently with a petition that might not even be selected for adjudication risks rejection not only of the premium processing request but of the entire petition (and loss of the cap number) if there are any problems with the premium processing check. On the other hand, some would like to file for premium processing before lottery selection. Their human resources representatives feel that it's easier to try premium processing rather than go back to the hiring managers later to seek additional funds.
New H-1B data hub. USCIS also announced a new "H-1B Employer Data Hub" that will be available on uscis.gov on April 1, 2019. The data hub is part of USCIS's "continued effort to increase the transparency of the H-1B program by allowing the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. This will give the public the ability to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program," USCIS said.
New H-1B cap selection process. In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced a final rule amending regulations governing cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, which will be in effect for the FY 2020 cap season. This change "increases the chances that more of these visas will be granted to those with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution of higher education," USCIS said.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.