What is the H1B Visa?
H1B visas allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers temporarily in specialty occupations. H1B visas fit into the category of employment “H” visas because they are for non-immigrant workers. H1B visas are specifically for workers in certain specialty occupations who wish to be employed in the U.S. temporarily. A worker using a H1B visa cannot stay in the U.S. permanently
What is H1B Registration?
In order to be eligible to receive a H1B visa, petitioners for the H1B visa must register with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by creating an account and following all the necessary steps.
Registering for the H1B visa is necessary because, unlike some other visas, the H1B visa is subject to a “cap” or “quota,” which limits the number of H1B visas the USCIS issues each year. The USCIS will randomly select among those who register for the H1B visa. This is often referred to as the H1B “lottery.” Those selected in the lottery can then petition for an H1B visa. Selection in the lottery does not guarantee issuance of an H1B visa. Selected applicants must prove their eligibility for the H1B visa in the petition submission.
An initial registration period is open each year for a total of 14 days, usually sometime in March. After the registration period closes, registered petitioners or representatives will be included in the H1B selection lottery. The USCIS will randomly select among the registered petitioners or representatives until the annual “cap” or “quota” is met.
What is the H1B Cap?
The United States government limits the number of H1B visas issued each year to 65,000. H1B applicants who have earned an advanced degree equivalent to a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempted from this cap. However, those with advanced degrees are subject to their own annual cap of 20,000.
Additionally, 6,800 of the 65,000 visa-cap are reserved specifically for the H1B1 visa. If there are any unused H1B1 visas remaining at the end of the selection process, those unused visas will be rolled over into the next year and added to the H1B cap for that year. This means there can be more than 65,000 H1B visas available in a given year.
Applicants seeking an H1B visa to perform labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam may be exempt from the H1B cap if their employers file the petition before December 31, 2029.
Additionally, the USCIS exempts certain other employers and employees from the cap.
Employers exempted from the cap include:
- higher education institutions
- non-profit organizations associated with higher education institutions
- non-profit research organizations or government research organizations
- any for-profit company that seeks to hire a specialty employee to provide services to an institution or organization mentioned above.
Employees exempted from the cap include:
- individuals who have previously been granted exemption to the cap.
An employer may also file a cap-exempt H1B petition for an employee if the employee previously held H1B status in the United States and the employee has not used his or her six years of status. The petition would cover the remaining time the employee is allowed in the U.S. An individual must file a petition subject to the cap if he or she has been out of the U.S. for 1 year.
Employees who gain different employment by transferring from one employer to another may be exempt from the cap, depending on the cap-exempt status of the employee, the employer, and the new employer.
Multiple Selection and Filing Periods
The USCIS will conduct multiple selection and filing periods or “rounds,” if there remains unused H1B visas subject to the cap. This can occur if there are remaining unused H1B visa after the initial selection and filing periods. For example, remaining unused visas will be available within the annual cap if registrants selected in previous periods failed to file a petition for the H1B after being selected or if their petition was ultimately not approved.
Generally, after the filing period for selected registrants concludes, the USCIS will determine whether the H1B cap has been met. The USCIS may select additional registrants and open additional filing periods until the cap is met. There is no precise amount of filing periods or “rounds” the USCIS will conduct in a given year. The amount of filing periods depends on the availability of unused H1B visas under the annual cap. For example, in 2021, the USCIS had an unexpected total of three filing periods.
How to Register for the H1B Visa?
Registering for the H1B visa is made relatively easy because it can be done online. However, there are several important steps to the registration process that must be completed correctly in order to successfully register.
Step One: Register Under the Correct Type of Account
In order to successfully register for the H1B visa, you must create an account with the USCIS or login if you’ve already created one in the past.
It is important that you understand what type of USCIS online account is appropriate for you. Registering with the wrong account type can result in an error that could disrupt your ability to receive an H1B visa.
There are three types of USCIS online accounts that you could register under. Review the account types below to determine which one matches your circumstances.
- Applicant/Petitioner/Requester Account
This account type is not appropriate for H1B visa registrations. Instead, this account type is used for individuals to prepare and file applications, petitions, or other benefit requests.
- Attorney/Representative Account
Attorneys or other representatives who are submitting H1B registrations on behalf of a petitioner must use this type of account. This account will allow the attorney or representative to submit Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative.
- Registrant Account
Prospective petitioners should register using this type of account. Petitioners can use this account to participate in the H1B registration process regardless of whether an attorney or representative will submit the registration on the petitioners behalf.
Step Two: Know the Registration Period Timeline
The initial registration period is generally around 14 days long in the month of March each year. For example, the initial registration period for 2022 begins on March 1st; however, accounts can begin to be created on February 21st, before registration officially opens. The initial registration period ends March 18th, 2022.
Below is the full 2022 registration period timeline:
- February 21st: Petitioners and registrants can start creating H1B registrant accounts at 12pm U.S. eastern standard time.
- March 1st: H1B registration period opens at 12pm U.S. eastern standard time.
- March 18th: H1B registration period closes at 12pm U.S. eastern standard time.
- March 31st: The USCIS will notify selected registrants
- April 1st: Selected registrants may file their petitions on this date.
As discussed above, the USCIS may open additional petition filing periods in 2022 if there are remaining unused H1B visas after the initial lottery selection. In 2021, the USCIS had an unexpected three filing periods. So, registrants should continue monitoring their selection status throughout the year and keep an eye out for USCIS updates about additional filing periods.
Step Three: Avoid Duplicate Beneficiaries
Petitioners are only permitted to submit one registration per beneficiary per year. If a petitioner has submitted more than one registration for the same beneficiary, the USCIS will remove all submissions by the petitioner from the selection process.
Separate petitioners or their representatives may submit registrations for the same beneficiary. But, each petitioner or representative may only submit one registration each for that beneficiary.
Petitioners and attorneys should coordinate with each other to ensure there are no improper duplicate registrations for a beneficiary. If duplicate registrations are discovered before the initial registration period comes to a close, the extra submissions may be deleted by the petitioner or representative until there is only one registration for the beneficiary. However, the $10 registration fees will not be refunded. There is no way to correct duplicate registrations after the initial registration period has closed.
Step Four: Pay Registration Fee(s)
There is a $10 registration fee for each registration for a single beneficiary. The $10 fee is non-refundable.
Step Five: Wait for Selection Notification
After the registration period closes, registrants and their representatives will be notified of their selection status on their USCIS online account throughout all filing periods.
On their online account, registrants or representatives will see one of five possible selection statuses, indicating where they stand with regard to the selection process:
- Submitted: The registration was successfully submitted, making the registrant eligible for selection in the selection process.
- Selected: The registrant has been selected to file an H1B petition.
- Not Selected: The registrant was not selected to file a H1B petition for this registration.
- Denied: There were multiple registrations submitted by or on behalf of the same beneficiary.
- Invalidated-Failed Payment: The fee payment submitted for the registration was declined, not reconciled, or otherwise invalid.