The H-1B visa allows employers to hire foreign nationals to work in many types of professional positions. There are 65,000 new U.S. visas available each year for employees with a bachelor’s degree (or higher) and an additional 20,000 visas for employees with a master’s degree (or higher). Because demand for these visas is so great, the Immigration Service (USCIS) uses a lottery system to allocate them. Since 1990, USCIS has accepted applications for this lottery starting on April 1st of each year. In 2020, for the first time, USCIS will open the lottery one month earlier on March 1st. To guarantee entry into the lottery, employers must enter their employees into the H-1B lottery by March 20th, 2020 when the initial filing window closes. USCIS will then complete the random selection process, prioritizing the H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a master’s degree or higher (another change that was implemented for the first time last year).
While the new timeline makes employers choose the employees they will sponsor in the H-1B lottery earlier than before, it should result in employers finding out if their employees were selected in the lottery much earlier than in prior years when it could take until late May. USCIS has said that it intends to conduct the lottery and notify selected employees by March 31. After that, employers would have 90 days to prepare and submit H-1B petitions on behalf of their “lottery winning” employees. Filing for an H-1B visa requires posting a specific notice on the employer’s premises, followed by certification of a labor condition application by the Department of Labor, all before filing the petition to the Immigration Service.
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