- Employers filing petitions for H-1B work visas during the 2021 cap season will be required to complete an electronic registration and pay a $10 fee, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced in a statement Dec. 6.
- The changes are intended to streamline the process for employers, USCIS said. The registration requirement was initially published in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued January 2019 and took effect in April. An NPRM for the $10 fee was published in September before being submitted as a final rule in November.
- USCIS said it would open an initial registration period of the 2021 cap season on March 1, 2020, and that this period will run through March 20, 2020. USCIS will then run a random selection process after which only employers with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap subject petitions.
Employers who rely on the H-1B visa program to fill certain high-skill roles have reported a number of challenges in recent years, from an increase in the number of petition denials to an increase in the number of requests for evidence issued by USCIS. The agency also delayed certain aspects of the process, including issuing a temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions during the early months of 2019.
These actions are a part of the Trump administration's broader immigration enforcement initiatives. In 2017, President Donald Trump signed the "Buy American and Hire American" Executive Order that directed federal agencies, in part, "to protect the interests of United States workers in the administration of our immigration system, including through the prevention of fraud or abuse." Under that order, USCIS has worked to overhaul application processes for visas like the H-1B, leading to increases in denial rates and the agency receiving more petitions than can be permitted under current caps.
But the administration hasn't necessarily acted to eliminate employers' use of high-skilled foreign workers, either. In January 2019, Trump spoke about the need for U.S. companies to have access to "the smartest people in the world," expressing support for an immigration based on merit. Still, that hasn't eased employer anxiety around immigration, Richard Burke, CEO of global immigration services provider Envoy Global, previously told HR Dive.