Washington | The H-1B visa application submission process for the fiscal year 2025 would start from March 6, a US federal agency said Tuesday as it announced a major overhaul of its annual lottery for this specialty occupation visa.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The new system, among other things, includes provision of a beneficiary-centric selection process for registrations by employers. As a result, unlike in the past of multiple applications by an individual that often resulted in abuse in fraud of the system, the H-1B visa applications would now be counted and accepted based on individual applicants. Even if one individual files multiple applications for various companies, they would be counted as one application based on their personal credentials like passport numbers.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also announced a set of new rules which are aimed at strengthening the integrity of and reducing the potential for fraud in the H-1B registration process. This includes reducing the potential for gaming the registration system and ensuring each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf, the federal agency said.
"We're always looking for ways to bolster integrity and curtail the potential for fraud while improving and streamlining our application processes," said USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou.
"The improvements in these areas should make H-1B selections more equitable for petitioners and beneficiaries and will allow for the H-1B process to be fully electronic from registration, if applicable, until final decision and transmission of approved petitions to the Department of State," he said.
USCIS said the initial registration period for the fiscal 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 6, and run through March 22. During this period, prospective petitioners and their representatives, if applicable, must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee for each beneficiary.
Starting February 28, companies would be allowed to open their account which can be used to start and complete the registration process.
USCIS said this final rule contains provisions that will create a beneficiary-centric selection process for registrations by employers, codify start date flexibility for certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, and add more integrity measures related to the registration process.
According to USCIS, under the beneficiary centric process, registrations will be selected by unique beneficiary rather than by registration. This new process is designed to reduce the potential for fraud and ensure each beneficiary would have the same chance of being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf by an employer, it said.
Starting with fiscal 2025, that begins on October 1, 2024, initial registration period, USCIS will require registrants to provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary.
The passport or travel document provided must be the one the beneficiary, if or when abroad, intends to use to enter the United States if issued an H-1B visa. Each beneficiary must only be registered under one passport or travel document, it said.
USCIS is also clarifying requirements regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap to permit filing with requested start dates that are after October 1 of the relevant fiscal year, consistent with current policy.
Also, the H-1B final rule codifies USCIS' ability to deny or revoke H-1B petitions where the underlying registration contained a false attestation or was otherwise invalid. Also under the new rule, USCIS may deny or revoke the approval of an H-1B petition if it determines that the fee associated with the registration is declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid after submission, it said.
In a statement, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Director of Government Relations Sharvari Dalal-Dheini said the new H-1B registration process will revise how lottery registration is run and create a more equitable system.
"After last year's registration period, when more than 750,000 registrations were submitted for 85,000 visas, it was clear that the existing system was unworkable. AILA and our partners advocated for exactly the sort of changes announced in this rule; changes that will ensure a beneficiary-centric lottery process to level the playing field," she said.
"It is commendable that DHS took steps to shift from a flawed model to one that will create a fairer system in time for this year's registration period," Dalal-Dheini said.