On Dec. 6, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the initial registration period for the H-1B cap season 2021 will begin on March 1, 2020 and end on March 20, 2020. Once selections have been announced, those selected will have 90 days to submit the petitions.
H-1B electronic registration requirement
On Jan. 31, 2019, USCIS issued the final rules requiring employers to electronically register each intending beneficiary to enter the random selection process for H-1B cap cases. The registration requirement is expected to streamline the random selection process by permitting only those who are selected to submit the actual petitions. The registration requirement was suspended for the fiscal year 2020, but on Sept. 30, 2019, the USCIS announced that it intended to implement the registration process for the FY2021 cap season.
The rules provide that while there is no limit to the number of registrations that may be submitted by an employer, duplicate registrations for a beneficiary from the same employer will render invalid all registrations for that beneficiary.
Registration for the random selection process must be submitted during the initial registration period, which will last a minimum of 14 calendar days and begin at least 14 days prior to April 1, 2020, the earliest date that cap petitions can be filed for that particular fiscal year. Each registration will be subject to a $10 fee. Once the selection has been made and announced, USCIS will announce the 90 day period to submit the petition, which most likely will be from April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020.
For those beneficiaries whose Optional Practical Training (OPT) expires in April or early May and will rely upon the cap gap rule, which automatically extends the employment authorization to Sept. 30th with the timely filing of the H-1B cap petition, petitions must be filed before the expiration of the OPT. Thus, employers should not wait until the selection is announced to prepare the petition. Depending on the actual expiration date of the OPT, the beneficiary may need to have the petition filed on April 1 or shortly after April 1 to benefit from the cap gap extension There may not be sufficient time after the announcement of the selection for the employer to prepare the petition before it must be filed. Thus, the best practice in these cases would be to prepare the petition ahead of time.