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H-1B Visas for FY 2020: USCIS Announces Filing Date, Updates, & Changes

Included in USCIS Announcement are the Starting Date for H-1B Cap Season Along With a Few Updates and Changes to the Program

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on March 19th, 2019, the date on which it would begin accepting H-1B specialty occupation petitions subject to the fiscal year 2020 cap, as well as a host of other important updates concerning the important immigration benefit allotted to hopeful beneficiaries each year. USCIS states that the changes introduced are in line with its ongoing objective to support President Donald Trump’s Buy American Hire American executive order designed to protect the wages and employment of U.S. workers, and also to aide the proper functioning of the H-1B program in general.

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Namely, the USCIS announcement includes such items of importance as the start date to the FY 2020 H-1B cap filing season, updates as to how premium processing of H-1B cap petitions will be managed, details concerning the newly established “H-1B Data Hub,” and updates with regard to changes to the H-1B cap selection process introduced earlier in 2019.

Starting Date of FY 2020 H-1B Cap Filing Season Announced

USCIS has announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2020 cap on April 1st, 2019. It is advised that H-1B petitioners follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare their petitions in order to avoid delays and potential requests for evidence (RFEs). It is advised that applicable petitioners make use of Form M-735, Optional Checklist for Form I-129 H-1B Filings to ensure that petitions are filed correctly with all the necessary materials.

New “Two-Phased Approach” for Premium Processing

In addition, USCIS states that it will be conducting premium processing of FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions using a two-phased approach so that it will be able to manage requests without fully suspending the granting of premium processing as it has in other years. The first phase will include cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other cap-subject petitions.

Regarding the first phase, starting on April 1st all cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service. Remember, 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. In order to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately, but will do so no later than May 20, 2019, and will notify the public beforehand.

If the petitioner does not file Form I-907 along with his or her cap-subject H-1B petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner will then have to wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907. Until then, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 not filed concurrently with a petitioner’s cap-subject I-129.

Regarding the second phase, premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least the month of June in 2019. Furthermore, premium processing requests may not be filed concurrently with H-1B cap-subject petitions not requesting a change of status. Instead, petitioners in this category will be eligible to request premium processing by filing Form I-907 once premium processing begins for this group, the date of which USCIS will announce to the public.

At any rate, premium processing for H-1B petitions exempt from the cap remains available at this time.

“H-1B Data Hub”

USCIS has also announced that its new program, “H-1B Data Hub,” will be available on uscis.gov beginning April 1st. As part of a declared effort to increase transparency, H-1B Data Hub will allow the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, NAICS industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. As a result, anyone with access will be able to calculate approval and denial rates as well as be allowed to review which employers are using the H-1B program.

Installation of the Revised H-1B Cap Selection Process

As per the new final rule announced by the Department of Homeland Security in January of 2019, the order in which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption has been reversed for the FY 2020 cap filing season. In brief, this 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.

If there are any questions regarding this USCIS announcement, the H-1B specialty occupation visa program in general, or any other U.S. immigration matters, please contact us.