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Statutes of Liberty: Major Changes to the H-1B Lottery Decrease Costs for Businesses

This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq. and Doran Shemin, Esq., practicing attorneys at Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact James for an appointment.

April is a busy month for daffodils, accountants and immigration lawyers.

The first week of April is the biggest week of the year for business immigration: H-1B season. The H-1B visa is a visa for foreign workers who will work in a specialty occupation in the United States on a temporary basis. Shorn of legalese, that means that foreigners who have specialty degrees — software programmers, accountants, lawyers — can work in the United States.

Demand greatly exceeds supply for these visas. Each fiscal year, there is a cap of 65,000 visas and a separate cap of 20,000 visas, known as the master’s cap, for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher, for a total of 85,000 available visas. Most employers submit applications for foreign workers under this program in April in the hope that foreign workers will start work at the beginning of the next fiscal year, in October. Demand is indeed intense.

Last year, USCIS began accepting fiscal year 2020 regular cap petitions on April 1, 2019. USCIS reached the 65,000-regular cap just four days later.

For the upcoming H-1B cap season, however, USCIS has changed the rules for the lottery. USCIS will use an electronic registration process for fiscal year 2021 cap season. Now, between March 1 and March 20, 2020, all employers seeking to file cap-subject petitions, including advanced degree petitions, must electronically register and pay a $10.00 fee to USCIS for each petition they wish to file. USCIS will then select registrations at random, and only those registrations chosen will be eligible to file a full cap-subject petition.

Previously, to file a cap-subject petition, employers submitted their petitions in full. This required many reams of paper and significant legal bills, with only a chance of having the petition selected. It also required tons of manpower on USCIS’s part to sift through all of the petitions. Now, employers will just submit a lottery ticket application with a $10 fee attached.

We can’t exaggerate how much this will lower legal bills for lottery entry. Is it good news for our bottom line? No. But it’s great news for clients!

If the new lottery system works, this will be a much better system for employers, especially smaller employers, who were understandably loathe to spend thousands of dollars on a petition that might not even be pulled out of the lottery. Now, smaller businesses will be able to compete with large companies on an equal basis.

The new H-1B lottery will be cheaper and better, but, if our experience is anything to go by, it won’t roll out smoothly. An experienced immigration lawyer can help companies navigate this new process. We are here to help.

As always, we welcome comments and will reply to all that we can. Happy Holidays!

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The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.

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_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

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Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at http://www.gicinc.org/PDFs/Presentation_TreeBenefits_Arlington.pdf.

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar, https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/29543206508863839.

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to https://www.civfed.org/.

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