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USCIS finalises higher preference for US advanced degree holders for H-1B

Only those whose registrations are selected will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition

Romita Majumdar  |  Mumbai 

Immigration authorities in US have released final rules to ensure higher number of H-1B applicants with advanced degrees from US institutes get an advantage during the filing season that starts on April 1st 2019. Further, online registrations for petitions will not be introduced this year as the platform for registration needs more testing before full implementation, said and Immigration Services (USCIS) in a statement on Wednesday.

“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the program work better,” said Director L. Francis Cissna. “The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

Changing the order in which counts these allocations will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education to be selected under the H-1B numerical allocations. Specifically, the change will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education, said in a statement.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), posted a final rule amending regulations for H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The final rule reverses the order by (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.

"The reverse petition selection process, introduced this year from April 1, 2019 means that USCIS will run a lottery on petitions across the board and then those petitions for individuals with advanced degrees (generally called Master’s Cap) that were not selected in the general lottery will be subject to a second lottery to select the 20,000 petitions reserved for this category of beneficiaries. There isn't a separate process or application for Master’s Cap cases but this reversal of selection order is expected to be an advantage of up to 16% for people with US degrees.," said Poorvi Chothani, founder and managing partner of law firm LawQuest.

Following public feedback, USCIS has suspended the electronic registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season to complete user testing and ensure the system and process are fully functional before implementation. Once implemented, the electronic registration requirement will require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption, to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period.

Only those whose registrations are selected will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. USCIS expects that the electronic registration requirement, once implemented, will reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS and petitioners.

Earlier in the week USCIS also announced the reinstatement of premium processing for all fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-1B cap petitions only i.e. pending petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (the “master’s cap”). Petitioners who have received requests for evidence (RFEs) for pending FY 2019 cap petitions should include their RFE response with any request for premium processing they may submit. When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time.

First Published: Thu, January 31 2019. 15:09 IST