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USCIS reopens H-1B lottery as petitions for FY21 decline due to COVID-19

Additional candidates have been selected. The window for filing petitions for these selected candidates will begin on August 17 and will close on November 16.

August 14, 2020 / 08:31 PM IST

The Unites States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has re-opened the H-1B lottery as number of petitions filed did not meet the FY21 annual cap of 85,000.

In a statement to Moneycontrol, USCIS said, “The USCIS determined that additional registrations needed to be selected to reach the numerical allocations. A selection of previously submitted electronic registrations was completed on August 11.”

The new H1-B Electronic Registration Process mandated employers to register with the USCIS by March 20, after which the lottery process starts. After the lottery, the agency announces the potential beneficiaries who can start the application process.

After the lottery selection in March, the H-1B candidates had a three month window, between April 1 and June 30, to file their applications. These applications were for 85,000 H-1B visa cap, 65,000 in regular quota and 20,000 in advanced degree quota, issued every year.

Close to 2.67 lakh had registered for the lottery. The USCIS has selected the candidates for the second lottery from these registrations.


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The window for filing petitions for these selected candidates will begin on August 17 and will close on November 16, USCIS said. However, the immigration agency did not disclose the number applications it had selected for the first cap or what was the scale of decline.

This is rare for H-1B, even considering that this is the first time electronic registration was implemented. During normal times, the cap would have been reached within a few days of filing or in this case by June positively.

The last time where the cap was not reached was probably during global financial crisis. A study by Brookings revealed that there were close to 20,000 slots available even after 211 days into FY10 as companies cut down their budgets and were unable to hire employees overseas.

According to immigration lawyer, Greg Siskind, founding partner of Siskind Susser, PC – Immigration Lawyers, this (second lottery) is happening for the first time in 30 years.

This year, COVID-19 and immigration issues played spoilsport.

Moneycontrol reported early in June that second lottery is likely with companies taking a cautious stand due to the pandemic and uncertainties around immigration, which eventually came true.

The Trump administration signed two proclamation, in April and June, banning immigration into the US. While the April proclamation suspended green card processing for those outside the US, the latter banned the entry of non-immigrant workers such as H-1B visa holders.

Some IT firms stayed away from filing fresh petitions at the back of travel restrictions due to COVID-19.

Sheela Murthy, founder and President, Murthy Law Firm, in an earlier interaction with Moneycontrol said (companies') sentiments are a mixture due to pandemic and immigration rules.

“Some are continuing hiring of H-1B workers. But approximately 20 percent of them are saying we don’t know what the future holds. So many of them might not file and USCIS may have a second cap season,” Murthy had pointed out.
Swathi Moorthy
first published: Aug 14, 2020 08:31 pm

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