U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has proposed to amend its regulations for applying for H-1B visas for temporary foreign workers in specialty occupations.

There is currently an H-1B visa lottery for 65,000 visa positions and a 20,000 limit for those eligible for an advanced degree exemption.

The proposed rule would create a mandatory online preregistration system, where employers file online registrations for intended workers during a two-week period before April 1.

USCIS would conduct a lottery and select enough registrations to meet the H-1B cap numbers. Those chosen under this lottery would then file a full H-1B petition.

USCIS expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for the agency.

Advanced Degree Exemption

The proposed rule would also change the order in which petitions are selected for the H-1B visa lottery to increase the number of beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher—from a U.S. institution of higher education—to be selected.

Under the proposed rule, USCIS would reverse the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, likely increasing the number of beneficiaries with advanced degrees to be chosen for an H-1B cap number.

Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap.

The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first.

Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption.

The proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16% percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions.

Public comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before Jan. 2, 2019.