HR Teams Should Prepare for the FY 2021 H-1B Visa Lottery Process and Electronic Registration System Opening on March 1, 2020

How should HR Teams prepare for the FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process? Many employers in the United States search for foreign national talent to fill highly technical positions. As a result, they offer H-1B visa sponsorship to prospective employees for specialty occupations including scientists, engineers, or information technology positions. Employers submit hundreds of thousands of petitions each year. Cap limits are in place on these visas, so employers must plan accordingly.

Additionally, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) changed the lottery process effective April 1, 2019. These changes may impact the selection of certain petitions. The Department of Homeland Security posted the rule in the Federal Register on January 31, 2019. This rule was followed for the FY 2020 H-1B visa lottery.

Another new rule is that employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions for the fiscal year 2021 cap, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption, must first electronically register and pay the requisite $10 H-1B registration fee. The registration fee final rule is effective as of December 9, 2019.

Current H-1B Visa Cap Limits:

  • 65,000 visas per year
    • 1,400 of these visas are reserved for residents of Chile
    • 5,400 of these visas are reserved for residents of Singapore
  • 20,000 for applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions of higher education

What is the FY 2021 H-1B Visa Lottery Process?

On December 6, 2019 USCIS announced that the new electronic registration requirement for petitioners will be in effect for the FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process. USCIS expects the new electronic registration to streamline processing, reduce paperwork, and provide cost savings to petitioners.

The steps in the new electronic registration process include:

  1. USCIS will open an initial registration period from March 1 through March 20, 2020
  2. Employers complete online registration seeking basic information about their company and each requested worker
  3. The H-1B random selection process, if needed, will be run on these registrations
  4. Only the selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions
  5. The registration fee is $10 and applies to all registrations submitted during the initial and future periods

The FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process follows this pattern:

  1. The first lottery includes all petitions and is subject to the 65,000 cap limit
  2. Once the first lottery has chosen the 65,000 petitions subject to the cap limit, the remainder are eligible for the 20,000 visas for applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. educational institutions

The Department of Homeland Security believes this process will increase the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be eligible for further processing under the FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process.

In the Past, What Happened to Petitions not Chosen in the Lottery?

In past years, due to the high number of petitions, some were likely not to be chosen in the lottery. During FY 2020, a total of 201,011 petitions were submitted to that year’s lottery. The cutoff date for applications submitted to the lottery was not defined. Also, the number of petitions that employers would submit was unknown.

Employers that were not prepared missed the cutoff date and were not able to fill their positions. As a result, these employers had to wait until the following year’s lottery. Another option for the employer was to consider an alternative visa for the foreign national, subject to qualification. The cap for FY 2020 was reached in only four days, by April 5, 2019.

How Does the New Electronic Registration Process Impact the FY 2021 H-1B Visa Lottery Process?

With the new electronic registration process, USCIS is expecting a significant reduction in processing and costs. For the past several years, USCIS had been receiving and processing hundreds of thousands of petitions all delivered during the first few days of the filing period. After this processing, two random selections of petitions chose the petitions eligible for the filing.

Instead of processing petitions first, USCIS will now run the two random selections based on the electronic filings, and the registrations chosen then receive authorization to file a petition. Those registrations chosen to receive authorization to file will have 90 days to file the H-1B cap-subject petition. The importance of submitting registrations during the March 1 through March 20 filing period now supersedes the need to file the petitions.

Employers should be ready to file a petition if the random selection process chooses their registration. Case adjudication for petitions will now occur on a “first-come, first-served” basis. As a result, the longer an employer takes to submit a petition following notification of authorization to submit, the higher the risk that work authorizations and employee start dates may be delayed.

What Does the FY 2021 H-1B Visa Lottery Mean for You?

As prior years experiences have shown, unprepared HR teams thinking they had several days to file were not given the opportunity to hire the foreign national employee they hoped to sponsor. With issues such as prevailing wages, Labor Condition Applications (LCAs), and possible site visits, the process should start as soon as possible so HR teams can submit applications at the start of the lottery. HR Teams should gather the basic information needed for the new electronic registration process as early as possible to be ready for the March 1 opening of the portal.

Where Should You Start?

Global Mobility Solutions has a team of global relocation experts who can help you with the FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process. Our team’s knowledge and access to visa and immigration resources is unparalleled in the industry. As a result, we have helped thousands of companies with the H-1B visa lottery process reach successful results.


Global Mobility Solutions’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients prepare for the H-1B visa lottery. Our team can help your company understand the process and prepare for the FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery process.

GMS was the first relocation company to register as a .com. The company also created the first online interactive tools and calculators, and revolutionized the entire relocation industry. GMS continues to set the industry pace as the pioneer in innovation and technology solutions with its proprietary MyRelocation® technology platform.

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Contact our experts online to discuss your FY 2021 H-1B visa lottery plans, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.

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