On December 6, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officially announced that they finished testing their new H-1B registration system and confirmed that they will be rolling it out for the upcoming H-1B cap season.
This system, initially proposed by USCIS on December 3, 2018, has been a long time coming. Essentially, it will require employers to register each foreign national for whom they intend to file an H-1B visa with an online registration system. USCIS will electronically select the cases they will adjudicate, notify the corresponding employers, and those employers will then prepare and submit H-1B visa applications for the selected cases.
In the agency’s own words, they believe this new “electronic registration process will dramatically streamline processing by reducing paperwork and data exchange and will provide an overall cost savings to petitioning employers.”
And in many ways, an H-1B registration system is a logical solution to the manual lottery system in place today that requires employers to prepare and submit entire H-1B petitions just to have many of those petitions rejected and sent back, costing employers, and law firms, time and resources.
But like with any new system, there’s uncertainty around how it’s going to go, whether there are going to be any bugs or other issues, and how to plan accordingly.
So, we asked immigration professionals how they’re preparing for the H-1B registration system, and here’s what we heard.
Prepare entire H-1B petitions in advance
Given that this is the first year USCIS is rolling out this H-1B registration system, we weren’t surprised that most of the people we spoke to said they plan to proceed by preparing entire H-1B petitions in advance like they have in the past, at least this time around.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that every H-1B petition will be prepared in full. More complicated cases or senior-level candidates, for example, might get their petitions prepared in advance to be sure all the T’s are crossed, and I’s are dotted, while less complex cases may be only partially completed or not started at all unless the USCIS registration system confirms their acceptance.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) ran a survey recently asking participants a similar question. According to them, “Most organizations indicated that they would prepare at least some, if not all, H-1B petitions for FY 2021 H-1B cap in advance of the lottery.”
So, this seems to be a favored tactic, at least this year. But it’s not the only tactic.
Prepare partial H-1B petitions in advance
Organizations that don’t want to prepare entire H-1B petitions in advance but also don’t want to leave everything until the last minute may consider partially preparing their H-1B petitions so that only some of the work would remain.
For example, employers can gather required support documentation from their H-1B candidates, prepare required translations or evaluations, file LCAs and so on, and leave the government forms and remaining legal documents until the end.
Yes, translations, evaluations and other ancillary H-1B services cost some money, and so doing them in advance does mean you would spend a little money before knowing whether the beneficiary in question will be selected. But the point here is to prepare a portion of the H-1B process, specifically anything that may require waiting on third party service providers, like the translation services in question, which could get overwhelmed once USCIS selects which H-1B petitions it will adjudicate.
This way, once USCIS confirms which H-1B beneficiaries are selected, their petitions can be quickly completed, checked and submitted for adjudication.
It’s a halfway point between fully completing your cases in advance and not starting any at all, creating some sense of preparedness but not spending more resources than needed.
Wait and see who is selected before preparing H-1B petitions
Finally, there are those who want to wait and see.
This option may be favored by small employers who only hire a handful of H-1B workers each year and so don’t have the kind of volume that requires robust advance planning.
This strategy may also be an option if an employer has alternate visa options for their H-1B potentials, e.g. continuing them on a TN, and therefore isn’t putting all their eggs into the H-1B basket.
Ultimately, the wait-and-see approach is the least favorite approach, though it’s certainly a great option for employers that don’t file too many cap cases.
Whatever you choose, we’re here for you
Overall, it seems that most employers are planning to do at least some kind of H-1B prep work – whether preparing full petitions or just gathering information and documentation in advance – given the uncertainty around the H-1B registration system.
At INSZoom, we’re committed to helping our clients through the H-1B registration system regardless of which of the above methods they adopt. For example, we recently launched an artificial intelligence-powered bot called Zoomi that can read scanned documents, including government forms, supporting documents and more, recognize important information, and appropriately auto-populate INSZoom, saving our users both time and cost.
So, whether it’s completing the H-1B application as usual, coordinating between beneficiary, petitioner and law firm to simply gather required documents without completing the full application, or just creating new H-1B cases but otherwise waiting before taking further steps, we’re here to make the process as smooth as possible.
If you have any questions about how to best leverage INSZoom throughout the H-1B registration process, please contact us.
Happy holidays from all of us here at INSZoom!