The H-1B visa, a crucial non-immigrant visa enabling US companies to engage foreign workers with specialized theoretical or technical expertise, is set to undergo a significant transformation for the fiscal year 2025.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a major overhaul of its annual lottery system, introducing a beneficiary-centric selection process to address issues of abuse and fraud.
Commencing on March 6, the H-1B visa application submission process for fiscal year 2025 will feature a more streamlined and equitable approach. Unlike previous practices allowing multiple applications by an individual, the new system will count and accept applications based on individual credentials, such as passport numbers.
This move aims to prevent abuse and ensure a fair chance for each beneficiary, irrespective of the number of applications submitted on their behalf.
Director Ur M. Jaddou emphasized the USCIS’s commitment to enhancing integrity and reducing fraud in the H-1B registration process. The agency introduced a set of rules to strengthen the system’s integrity, including measures to prevent gaming the registration process. The improvements aim to make H-1B selections more equitable for both petitioners and beneficiaries, enabling a fully electronic process from registration to the final decision.
The USCIS disclosed that the initial registration period for the fiscal 2025 H-1B cap will open at noon Eastern on March 6 and run through March 22. Prospective petitioners must use a USCIS online account to register each beneficiary electronically for the selection process and pay the associated registration fee.
Beginning February 28, companies can open their accounts to initiate and complete the registration process. The final rule for fiscal year 2025 introduces a beneficiary-centric selection process, flexible start date provisions, and additional integrity measures related to the registration process.
Under the new beneficiary-centric process, registrations will be selected by unique beneficiary rather than by registration. This change is designed to minimize the potential for fraud and ensure equal chances for all beneficiaries, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf.
Starting with fiscal year 2025, registrants must provide valid passport information or valid travel document information for each beneficiary. The provided passport or travel document must be the one the beneficiary intends to use to enter the United States if issued an H-1B visa. USCIS is also clarifying requirements regarding the requested employment start date on certain petitions subject to the congressionally mandated H-1B cap.
Additionally, the final rule codifies USCIS’ authority to deny or revoke H-1B petitions based on false attestations or invalid registrations. USCIS may also deny or revoke the approval of an H-1B petition if it determines that the registration fee is declined, not reconciled, disputed, or otherwise invalid after submission.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has praised these changes, noting that they will create a more equitable system and address the challenges of the previous unworkable model. The beneficiary-centric approach is expected to level the playing field, ensuring fairness in the H-1B lottery process and fostering a more efficient and transparent system for all stakeholders.