Changes to H1-B Program

In a press release issued on January 30, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced changes to the application process for the H1-B visa lottery system. These changes are made pursuant to the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order issued by President Donald Trump on April 17, 2017. The press release identified two main areas where the H1-B lottery system will be adjusted.

Electronic Registration

The planned electronic registration system, which would effectively eliminate the April 1 H1-B application deadline, has been delayed, at least with respect to the mandate that applicants use the system. The system has been suspended for fiscal year 2020, while it is tested to address concerns of abuse, and is now planned to be made available in April 2020 for filings related to fiscal year 2021.

Master and Regular Caps

Previously, H1-B visas were first assessed against the “Masters Cap,” for which 20,000 visas are available. Any unselected visas were then reassessed against the “Regular Cap” of 65,000 visas. The process has now been reversed, with the Regular Cap visas assessed first, and Masters Cap visas assessed once the Regular Cap has been met, with unselected Regular Cap visas that meet the requirement for a visa that counts towards the Masters Cap to be reassessed in that latter process. DHS believes that the change will increase visas issued to applicants with a US Master’s Degree by up to 16 percent.