Between March 1 and March 20, 2020, 275,000 individuals were entered into USCIS’ new electronic pre-registration system to obtain an H-1B for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. This is a nearly 25% increase over last year’s filings.

While it is hard to judge what led to the apparent increase in demand, the change may be a reflection of the ease of entering into the lottery, and low unemployment during the first quarter. Employers no longer are required to complete and submit full H-1B filings, but rather simply enter the individuals they wish to sponsor into the system and pay a $10.00 fee per worker. This is an enormous benefit since filing full H petitions has become much more complex under the current Administration’s focus on enforcement. More documentation is needed to try to avoid the now ubiquitous Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Last year more than 60% of H-1B cases received RFEs.

USCIS required very little information about each applicant, but it collected such information as whether the individuals hold U.S. advanced degrees and the citizenship of each applicant. USCIS has announced that about 43% of this year’s pre-registrations were for individuals holding U.S. advanced degrees (Master’s Cap cases). Eighty-one percent of the pre-registrations were for Indian (68%) and Chinese (13%) nationals. The companion figures for the cases that “won” the lottery have not been released. But the lottery system generally favors those with advanced degrees. Last year, 63% of the selected petitions were for beneficiaries with U.S. Master’s degrees.

Many petitioners have been notified which of their cases were selected in the pre-registration lottery. Those cases must be filed over the next 90 days. USCIS explained that all submitted cases will remain in the system for possible selection until the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020). From now until then, more cases may be selected in the lottery. Whether or not this happens may depend upon the appetite of the employers whose cases have already been selected for filing. Will COVID-19 play a role in determining how many employers will move forward and file full Cap H-1B petitions?

Jackson Lewis attorneys will continue to follow and report on developments.