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Immigration, Trade, and Commerce Organizations Petition USCIS for Greater Review of Proposed H-1B Registration System

August 20, 2019

Last fall, USCIS announced that changes would be forthcoming for the H-1B program, as soon as this year. The new plan would require companies who seek an H-1B visa for a foreign worker to first submit a free online registration form instead of an initial application before the window for applications opened each April. Then, USCIS would determine which select registrations would move forward in the application process, with new visas awarded by lottery.

On August 16, 2019, 15 organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several technology organizations, and associations released a joint letter stating the following:

“While we welcome the agency’s efforts to modernize filing processes and improve efficiencies to better manage the H-1B lottery, transitioning to a new electronic system has the potential for technical glitches and operational disruptions. We urge USCIS to engage in extensive beta testing of the system, with maximum participation and feedback from a wide range of interested stakeholders, before the system is required for use to ensure a smooth transition to the new electronic registration system and minimize the risk of disruptions. Meaningful consideration of stakeholder recommendations and engagement in system testing is necessary to ensure that the registration system works as intended.

In fact, USCIS indicated in its final rule that it would engage in stakeholder outreach and provide training to the regulated public on the registration system in advance of its implementation. To that end, U.S. employers, immigration practitioners, higher education institutions, and the general employment-based immigration community should have the opportunity to participate in the testing and vetting process as they will be the front-end users of the system and are best positioned to identify technical issues that might not be evident on the back end during the development of the electronic registration system.

Without participation from a wide-range of interested stakeholders, there is the potential for significant disruptions to U.S. employers that utilize the H-1B program to meet their workforce needs, jeopardizing the ability of American companies to acquire the talent they need to innovate, expand their operations, create jobs, and compete in the global economy.”

The organizations that authored the letter offered to review the new registration system and provide feedback on its functionality. Further, they asked that USCIS publicly confirm by September 15, 2019, if, and when, the new electronic registration system would be introduced for the FY2021 H-1B season.