Preparing for the H-1B Cap Season

Jan 12, 2024 | Preparing for the H-1B Cap Season

H-1B, Preparing for the H-1B Cap Season

Start preparing now for the H-1B Lottery

The FY2025 H-1B Cap Season is upon us! Employers who wish to sponsor employees for H-1B petitions should start to prepare their applications now to be ready for the lottery in March of 2024. The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals working in specialty occupations to seek employment in the USA for a three-year period. There are 65,000 H-1Bs available each year for foreign nationals with bachelor’s degrees and an additional 20,000 available for foreign nationals who received their master’s degree in the U.S. However, the demand for H-1Bs is higher than 85,000 and so USCIS runs a lottery each year to determine who may file an H-1B petition. In recent years, there has been about a 25% chance of success in the H-1B lottery. For many employers, the lottery will be the only opportunity during 2024 to apply for an H‑1B visa. 

First Step: Registration  

The first step in the H-1B cap process is filing a lottery registration online with USCIS. Registration involves submitting basic information about the employer and employee. Registration will be open from March 6, 2024 at noon ET to March 22, 2024 at noon ET.    

Second Step: Lottery Selection  

After the close of the registration period, USCIS runs a random lottery and notifies those who are selected. Last year, the lottery winners were notified electronically by April 1st. Typically USCIS selects more than 85,000 registrants with the understanding that not all registrants will ultimately submit H-1B petitions. Those not selected are put on a waiting list. In FY2024, USCIS ran a second lottery in August and selected additional registrants off the waiting list because the initial lottery did not fill the H‑1B cap. A second lottery does not happen every year.

Third Step: Filing the H-1B Petition  

The H-1B petition must be filed within 90 days of selection, which is typically the end of June. To file the H-1B petition, the employer must first file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, post required disclosures at the place of employment, and file the I-129 petition with USCIS.  

Fourth Step: Start Working!  

Approved H‑1B applicants in the FY2025 cycle may start work on October 1, 2024 (the first day of FY2025) at the earliest. Some applicants who are changing status from F-1 OPT to H-1B may be able to benefit from the “cap gap,” which allows for OPT extension until the H-1B start date.  

Fifth Step: Renewal  

The H-1B allows for a three-year renewal. We recommend that employers file the renewal petition six months before the initial period of H-1B expires. Certain H-1B beneficiaries can be eligible for renewals beyond 6 years if they have started the green card process.  

New Regulations  

USCIS proposed amendments to the H-1B regulations some of which will take effect before the H-1B lottery in March 2024. Highlights include:

  • USCIS will select registrations in the H-1B lottery based on each beneficiary, instead of each registration. In the past, if a beneficiary had multiple registrations from various potential employers, they had a higher chance of selection than a beneficiary with one registration. This change seeks to level the playing field and give a beneficiary with one registration the same odds of success as a beneficiary with multiple registrations.  We anticipate that the odds of selection in the H-1B lottery for this year will be better than last year.
  • USCIS will require that beneficiaries provide a passport or travel document number as part of the H-1B registration. The passport or travel document used for the registration should be the same document that the beneficiary intends to use to enter the USA if issued an H-1B visa.
  • USCIS is debuting a new organizational account system for filing the H-1B registrations. Employers can register their organizational account starting on February 28, 2024.
  • USCIS is increasing the I-129 H-1B fee from $460 to $780 for most employers starting on April 1, 2024. Also, most employers will be required to pay a new $600 Asylum Program Fee when they file an I-129 H-1B petition.
  • USCIS is increasing the premium processing fee from $2,500 to $2,805 on February 26, 2024.

Schedule a consultation with us to discuss H-1Bs for your employees!   

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