The H‐1B visa program allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. This is an important visa program for both employers in the U.S. and foreign workers around the world. For this reason, it’s important to understand the recent changes to the H‐1B lottery program that take effect this year. 

How the H‐1B Lottery Process Has Changed

Every year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) approves 85,000 H‐1B petitions. Because there is such a high demand for these visas, the USCIS uses a lottery system to choose visa holders. This year, the USCIS announced changes to the lottery system that will affect employers and foreign workers. 

The USCIS will now use an online registration system to choose the winners of the H‐1B visa lottery. Now, the winners of the lottery are chosen before the H‐1B visa applications are filed. Employers must register each employee for the lottery before the winners are chosen. However, employers should not submit H‐1B visa applications for an employee unless they are one of the lottery winners. If an employee is not selected in the H‐1B visa lottery, the employer should not move forward with the application process. This simplifies the H‐1B lottery process by ensuring that employers only have to submit applications for employees that are selected in the lottery. 

Important H‐1B Deadlines For Employers & Foreign Workers

There are several important deadlines in the H‐1B visa process that employers must meet. If you miss one of these deadlines, you could miss out on the opportunity to obtain an H‐1B visa. To avoid this problem, follow this timeline: 

  • December 2019 to March 2020: Start gathering the documents you will need to submit each employee’s petition to the USCIS. Starting this now will ensure you have plenty of time to get everything prepared in advance and will make the registration process much easier.
  • March 1, 2020‐March 20, 2020: This is the new step in the H‐1B visa lottery process. During this time period, employers will need to access the USCIS’s new online system and register each employee for the H‐1B lottery. Employers will need to submit the following information for each employee: 
    • Name
    • Date of birth
    • Country of birth
    • Citizenship
    • Passport information
  • Verification that the employer has a bona fide job offer for the employee if he or she is selected for an H‐1B visa
  • After March 20, 2020: The USCIS will contact employers with employees that have been selected in the H‐1B visa lottery. If an employee has been chosen, the employer has 90 days from the date of the lottery to submit the employee’s H‐1B visa petition. The USCIS can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to process the petition once it has been received.
  • October 1, 2020: Employees that have acquired H‐1B visas can begin working on October 1, 2020. Employers must verify these employees’ H‐1B visas using Form I‐9. This must be done within three days from the employee’s start date. 

Employers should follow this timeline to make sure they don’t miss any important deadlines in the new H‐1B visa lottery process. 

Contact Our Immigration Attorneys to Learn More About H‐1B Visas

If you have questions regarding the new H‐1B visa process, it’s best to contact an experienced immigration attorney for help. Attorney Margo Chernysheva can help you understand the complex immigration laws and guide you through the process of obtaining an H‐1B visa.