USCIS Announces Upcoming H-1B Cap Lottery Dates and New Beneficiary-Centric Selection Process

USCIS has officially announced the dates for the fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap lottery, which will open on Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at noon ET and end on Friday, March 22, 2024, at noon ET. This annual lottery is meant to select new H-1B candidates, who will be eligible to file an H-1B petition and, if approved, begin H-1B employment on October 1, 2024 (the first day of FY 2025).

Through the annual H-1B lottery process, employers of prospective H-1B workers, and their legal representatives, complete an online registration that includes basic information about the petitioner/employer and each prospective worker, as well as pay the current associated $10 H-1B registration fee for each prospective worker. Once the registration period is complete, USCIS will run a random computer-generated selection process (or lottery) to select enough electronic registrations to meet its annual H-1B quota (or cap). This includes an annual regular quota for the H-1B category of 65,000 workers, in addition to an annual “master’s” quota of 20,000 workers who have obtained their master’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. university.

Employers should keep in mind that the selection process will only occur once the registration period closes, so there is no requirement to register on the opening date. However, we encourage employers to contact counsel to begin the registration process as soon as possible to ensure that all new cases can be timely prepared and vetted.

New Beneficiary-Centric Selection Process 

USCIS has also announced a new process in an attempt to make the H-1B process more fair for all applicants and level the playing field relative to last year’s lottery process, which saw a major increase in overall registrations and workers with multiple registrations filed on their behalf.   

Last year, USCIS received a total of 758,994 eligible registrations. The year before there was a total of 474,421 eligible registrations. More than half of submitted registrations – 408,891 – were eventually determined to be registrations for workers who had submitted more than one registration, which may have unfairly increased their chances of selection. USCIS later acknowledged that the “large number of eligible registrations for beneficiaries with multiple eligible registrations – much larger than in previous years – has raised serious concerns that some may have tried to gain an unfair advantage by working together to submit multiple registrations on behalf of the same beneficiary.” In some cases, USCIS undertook investigations based on suspected immigration benefit fraud.  

This year, USCIS will implement a new “beneficiary-centric” system in an effort to ensure that all workers have the same chance of selection. This was set forth in the final rule, Improving the H-1B Registration Selection Process and Program Integrity, published on February 2, 2024. It will become effective on March 4, 2024. The new system will implement measures to require a beneficiary’s valid passport or travel document information at the time of registration. It will also prohibit a beneficiary from being registered under more than one passport or travel document. This will make the selection process beneficiary-specific, rather than allowing for multiple registrations on behalf of the same worker.

The final rule allows for USCIS to exercise discretion in valid instances of a “legal name change due to marriage, change in gender identity, or a change in passport number or expiration date due to renewal or replacement of a stolen passport in between the time of registration and filing the petitions.” In such a situation, the H-1B petition filed on behalf of the beneficiary must contain evidence of the valid change or circumstances. Thus, we encourage employers with prospective H-1B workers to take care to provide their most current and updated passport to counsel and to track that information at the time of H-1B lottery registration, and to advise of any unique issues (such as dual citizenship, a recent name change, or a pending passport renewal).

If the use of a different passport or travel document is determined to be impermissible, USCIS is permitted to deny or revoke any H-1B petitions, including where multiple registrations were submitted for the same beneficiary by using information for different documents, or where the underlying registration contained a false attestation or was otherwise invalid. It is expected that these changes will minimize the effect of multiple registrations unfairly increasing certain applicants’ chances for selection.

Please contact counsel if you have any questions regarding the upcoming H-1B lottery registration process, or these associated changes.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.