This afternoon, USCIS announced the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap season, start dates for premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions, and the launch of its new H-1B data hub. USCIS is also reminding petitioners of its new H-1B cap selection process. These new efforts are all part of President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order designed to protect U.S. workers.
Start of FY 2020 Cap Season
USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap on April 1, 2019 and will reject any FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before this date. Petitioners are reminded to follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence.
Premium Processing for FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions
During the FY 2020 cap season, USCIS will offer premium processing in a two-phased approach. This way, USCIS can best manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as has been the case in previous years. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.
Beginning April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on Form I-129 may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907. However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately. USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019, and USCIS will notify the public before premium processing begins. If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with a FY 2020H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907. Until premium processing begins for these petitions, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 that is not filed concurrently with a cap-subject Form I-129. Petitioners must appropriately select response “b” for item 4 in part 2 of Form I-129 to be eligible to concurrently file Form I-907.
Premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 2019. Cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition. These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing by filing Form I-907 once premium processing begins for this group. USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status.
At this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.
New H-1B Data Hub
USCIS has also announced the new H-1B Employer Data Hub that will be available on uscis.gov on April 1. The data hub is part of USCIS’ continued effort to increase the transparency of the H-1B program by allowing the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, NAICS industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. This will allow the public to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program.
New H-1B Cap Selection Process
In January, DHS announced a final rule amending regulations governing cap-subject H-1B petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption (read previous blog on that here). The final rule reverses the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, which will be in effect for the FY 2020 cap season. This simple change increases the chances that more of these visas will be granted to those with an advanced degree from a U.S. institution of higher education.
As a reminder, Congress has set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year with an advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap available for 20,000 beneficiaries who possess a U.S. master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education. USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B numerical allocations have been met.
We are in the full swing of H-1B cap season here at Berardi Immigration Law! If you or any of your employees have questions on these new changes or the H-1B visa category in general, please contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys today!