When the number of cap-subject H-1B petitions exceeds the allotted 65,000 annual H-1B visas and additional 20,000 visas for beneficiaries with master’s degrees or higher, USCIS has a randomized lottery to select which petitions will be processed. Like last year, electronic registration will be the first step, and then those selected will be asked to submit a completed petition. Also like this past year, the 20,000 advanced degree visa registrations will be selected first in a randomized lottery and those not chosen will get a second chance in the regular pool. This gives beneficiaries with advanced credentials a higher chance of being selected for an H-1B visa. Now, the Department of Homeland Security proposes to take it a step further, doing away with the randomized lottery for the upcoming H-1B filing season.
On November 2, 2020, DHS proposed the rule, “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions.” The comment period extends to December 2, 2020.
The background of this proposed rule stems from the 2017 Executive Order 13788 directing DHS and other agencies to, “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”
To follow this directive, this new rule generally selects “registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistic (OES) prevailing wage level so that the proffered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment.”
The reasoning DHS gives for doing away with the randomized lottery by generally selecting petitions for beneficiaries with the highest wage levels is as follows:
“A random lottery system is reasonable, but inconsiderate of Congress’s statutory purposes for the H-1B program and its administration. Instead, a registration based on wage level within each cap would increase the average median wage levels of H-1B beneficiaries who would be selected for further processing under the H-1B allocations. Moreover, it would maximize H-1B cap allocations so that they would more likely go to the best and brightest workers.”
However, this proposed rule ignores a central pillar of the H-1B program, which is to attract the brightest students from abroad to come to the United States for college by offering them an avenue for specialty occupation employment following graduation. These jobs tend to be low-wage due to lack of work experience. This new rule may also discriminate against small companies and petitioners based in geographical locations with generally lower wage levels.
If this proposed rule goes into effect, this may significantly change the way H-1B employers make hiring decisions regarding H-1B positions, set wage levels, and determine which jobs require advanced degrees. We expect RFEs regarding wage level and specialty occupation issues to come back in full swing, and we anticipate education issues especially regarding advanced degree equivalencies.
We are monitoring the situation closely and are dedicated to keeping our clients and community informed and developing creative solutions. This new rule will be vulnerable to challenge in the court system and could very well be reversed or otherwise changed when the Biden Administration takes office. In the meantime, let us review your case for viability and to see where adjustments can be made to enhance your petition’s odds of approval.
For a free review of your case, visit www.ccifree.com. We will respond in 4 hours or less.
Sheila Danzig is the director of CCI TheDegreePeople.com. Sheila specializes in overturning RFEs and Denials for work visas.