as published in the Immigration Daily on December 3, 2018.
U.S.C.I.S.’s newly proposed rule of December 3, 2018, “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens,” does more than announce a proposed regulation, but also discloses many relevant statistics concerning H-1B numbers.
The rule itself proposes to put into place an employer preregistration system under which organizations would be forced to register within a 14 day period for the chance to submit a new cap-subject H-1B petition within staggered 60 day time frames to be designated by U.S.C.I.S. if the preregistration request is selected. The preregistration in effect would replace the current H-1B selection process under which 85,000+ petitions are selected in the first 5 business days of April. A second facet of the rule allows U.S.C.I.S. to flip-flop the selection process of the U. S. Masters cases and the regular cap cases in an attempt to enhance the chances of U. S. Masters candidates. U.S.C.I.S. estimates that reversing the current procedure of first randomly selecting the U. S. Masters cap cases and allowing the remainder to also be considered in a subsequent regular cap case selection, and instead allowing all the Masters cases to be placed in regular cap case selection, and then allowing the remainder to claim the Masters cap quota of 20,000+ numbers, would yield a further 5340 numbers or 16% more to the U. S. Masters cap cases.
The two parts of the proposed regulation are considered separate by U.S.C.I.S., and the second part can go into effect even if there are technical difficulties with implementing the preregistration system. It seems unlikely that the first part will come into being for this coming H-1B season because of many obstacles including complexity but principally the timing – the time for comments to close is January 2, 2019, it will take much time for the agency to go through the tons of comments that are expected, the regulation will have to go through OMB to become final, and H-1B season must start on April 1, 2019. Any idea of delaying the start of the H-1B season would be horrendous given U.S.C.I.S.’s present inability to handle the current load of this past year’s new H-1B petitions. Even now, many H-1B petitions submitted in the first week of April 2018 remain unadjudicated.
Now to the numbers. There has always been question as to how many more H-1B petitions are selected than the announced 85,000 per year (65,000 for the regular cap and 20,000 for the U. S. Masters cap). Practitioners have variously attempted to guess the number as U.S.C.I.S. allows a number of petitions over 85,000 to be “wait listed” by estimating the number of petitions that will be denied, withdrawn, or otherwise found ineligible. The number is 12,198, the average for 5 years from FY 2013-17 according to the proposed rule. With an average selection of 97,198 petitions per year, and U.S.C.I.S. disclosures that it presently selects 13,495 over the usual 20,000 Masters cap candidates (33,495) leaving 63,703 regular cap selectees, rough estimates can be made when coupled with U.S.C.I.S. figures of an average of 192,918 petitions received (137,017 regular cap and 55,900 U. S. Masters) that historically, U. S. Masters comprise 34.46% and regular cases 65.54% of the selected cases; that when viewed through the prism of the 137,017 and 55,900 divided petitions, U. S. Masters were selected 60% and regular cases 46.5%; and that overall of the 192,918, U. S. Masters comprised 17.36% and regular cases 33%.
Under the proposal of flip-flopping the random selection process to give more numbers to the U. S. Masters cases, and using the same historical numbers, U. S. Masters would comprise 40% of the selected cases and regular cap 60%; that when broken down into their individual applied for categories, U. S. Masters would be selected at a rate of 69.47% and regular cases at 42.6%; and in looking overall at the historical average of 192,918 submitted petitions, 20% would be U. S. Masters and 33% regular cases.
The above numbers are approximate as U.S.C.I.S. only gave current statistics on the number of U. S. Masters cases selected and the author can only believe that the statistics are for one year. As FY 2017 is the most recent covered in the proposed rule, perhaps a better reading is done using that year. U.S.C.I.S. statistics show that it received 198,460 petitions of which 87,380 were from U. S. Masters and 111,080 from regular cases. It selected 96,301 petitions for the year. Using the same figures for selection of U. S. Masters cases, the percentage of U. S. Masters of the 96,301 selectees was 34.78% and regular cases 65.22%; that divided into the categories for which petitions were submitted, U. S. Masters were at 38.33% and regular cases 56.54%; and overall of the 198,460 submitted cases, U. S. Masters garnered 16.88% of the selections and regular cases 31.65%.
Would the numbers change dramatically given the proposed reversal of the random selection process? Not dramatically. Of the 96,301 selected cases for FY 2017, a flip-flopping would have left H-1B Masters at 40.32% and regular cases at 59.68%; that judged by the categories in which they applied, U. S. Masters would have been accepted at 44.4% and regular cases at 51.7%; and overall in the total 198,460 submitted petitions, U. S. Masters would have been picked at 19.57% and regular cases at 29%.
Looking forward, it would appear that the second part of the preregistration system proposed regulation is much more likely to be installed for this April than preregistration as it is an easy step to implement and U.S.C.I.S has made clear in the proposal that it can suspend the H-1B registration process merely through an announcement on its website while still reversing the order of counting the petitions towards the H-1B allocations. So it is entirely possible that the regulation could become final as late as March with only the second part coming into effect. Finally the author notes that those contemplating the filing of regular cap cases should not be discouraged as he was surprised to find that within the categories for which employers applied for their candidates, the approximate five-year average of selection for those applying under regular cap cases was 46.5%, and the most recent year given in the proposed regulation (FY-2017) showed a selection rate of 56.54%.