LawQuest | US Immigration Alert | USCIS Announces Registration Dates for the H-1B CAP Season FY 2024

USCIS Announces Registration Dates for the H-1B CAP Season FY 2024

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on January 27, 2023 that the initial period for FY 2024 H-1B cap registration will open at 12 noon EST on March 1, 2023, and run through 12 noon EST on March 17, 2023. Employers seeking to engage foreign nationals on H-1B visas must complete registrations online.  In addition, it is important to note the following:

  • Petitioners or their representatives must submit registrations via a myUSCIS online account and pay a $10 filing fee for each registration.
  • Employers will not be able to submit registrations after the March 17 deadline. There is no advantage to filing the registrations at the beginning of the registration period but later the system might be overloaded with last-minute registrations.  So, it is best to be prepared to submit the registrations soon after it opens on March 1, 2023.
  • After the registration period, the USCIS will conduct a random lottery if there are more registrations than available visas. Annual H-1B caps continue to be set at 65,000 visas plus an additional quota of 20,000 for individuals with advanced U.S. degree holders.
  • Petitioners will be given a 90-day period beginning April 1, 2023, to file full H-1B petitions for candidates that were selected in the random, post-registration selection.

In the last fiscal year, the USCIS received 484,927 H-1B registrations, the highest in history. We expect that the demand for H-1B visas will continue to be high this cap season, despite the layoffs and signs of an economic slowdown in the U.S.

Please contact Manizeh Mistry at [email protected]onal.Com or [email protected] if you have questions about the registration process or need assistance with your H-1B CAP selections and/or preparation.


LawQuest | Indian Immigration Alert | Indian e-Visas Reinstated for Canadian Nationals

Indian e-Visas Reinstated for Canadian Nationals!

After two weeks of resuming the electronic visa or e-Visa facility for UK Nationals, India has now reinstated this facility for Canadian nationals as well. Canada is now a part of the list of eligible countries on the e-Visa portal.

This was announced by the High Commission of India in Ottawa, and is effective from December 20, 2022, (See

The High Commission of India further announced that “All pending visa applications submitted through the BLS Centres in Canada will be processed on priority. Those applicants who wish to withdraw their respective visa applications may do so by visiting the website and choosing the option for Application Withdrawal.”

It further added “Those who have booked appointments to apply for tourist, business, medical or conference visa at BLS Centres in Canada and would, now, like to apply for eVisa instead, are requested to vacate/cancel their appointment slots so that the same becomes available to others seeking visa/consular services.”

The reinstatement of the e-Visa facility will help clear the backlog for visa application appointments which has been a huge impediment for Canadian nationals, especially for those wishing to travel to India for tourism and/or business.

An Update on U.S. Visa Appointments and Consular Affairs in India

An Update on U.S. Visa Appointments and Consular Affairs in India

Last week, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs, Mr. Don Heflin, at the U.S. Embassy in India, provided an update on visa processing in India. He described the steps they are taking across Mission India to reduce the visa appointment wait and processing time as well as appointment backlogs. Some of the key points are provided below.
Augmenting Staff and Other Measures
• Mission India plans to be at 100 percent staffing within the next year. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mission India was operating at about 50 percent capacity. Now it is at about 70 percent and rising.
• In the meantime, the State Department is sending temporary staff to assist Mission India.
• Mission India continues to offer expanded Dropbox facilities to reduce the number of in-person visa interviews.
• Interview waiver and Dropbox cases are being sent to consular posts outside India and this will help reduce wait times for such applicants. Changes are expected within the next couple of weeks or so.
Visa Interview Appointments
• Student visa appointments will be scheduled for mid-to-late November through the end of December. Half of the appointments will open for booking in mid-October; the second half will open in mid-November.
• Mission India updated its system to allow for separate scheduling of exchange visitor (J) visas. Applicants should see a small number of appointments available each week.
• Mission India will prioritize first-time student visa applicants and will open up appointments for students who have been previously refused toward the end of the interview season.
• H and L visas will be prioritized and within the next few weeks Mission India will offer 100,000 appointments for 2023 for applicants in these categories including first time applicants and dependents.
• At present the visa appointment system automatically directs eligible candidates to Dropbox appointments. These applicants cannot request an expedited appointment. Hence, Mission India is modifying its system so that applicants can choose to disregard the Dropbox option and seek an in-person interview enabling them to request an expedited appointment.
• So far third-party agents have been able to use algorithms to book appointments as soon as they became available, rendering it difficult for the general public to do so. Mission India has introduced certain changes to make it more difficult for such third-party agents.
• For a long time Mission India made available “place holder” appointments to facilitate expedite interview requests. However, this is no longer the practice, and all appointments (for 2023 and 2024) are “real” appointments that will not be cancelled closer to the date as was the practice with “place holders.” However, applicants can change their appointment if an earlier appointment becomes available.
• Mission India receives more than a hundred expedite requests each week but do not have the capacity to accommodate such requests. Applicants are asked to make requests only if they are eligible under the very strict criteria published on their website.
• Mission India may grant expedite requests from business travelers for significant, large meetings, senior-level executive travel or in cases where the travel is linked to a contract with a U.S. company.
• Mission India expects the family-based green card backlog to be cleared within the year for those whose priority dates are current.
Visa Fees
• An announcement about the validity of Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fees is expected soon. Anyone who paid the MRV fee during the COVID-19 pandemic will need to book an appointment by Sept. 30, 2023, in order for the MRV fee to remain valid. The appointment can occur after September 30, 2023 but must be booked before that date. Once an appointment is scheduled, the MRV will be locked in and will be valid for the related visa application.

Learn now to hold two jobs on an H-1B visa!

The most common form of employment on an H-1B visa in the U.S. is full-time employment with a single employer. However, the regulations permit “concurrent employment.” This means that more than one employer can engage the services of an H-1B worker in certain circumstances. An H-1B petition filed to authorize an H-1B worker to be employed in another job concurrent with his current H-1B employment, is commonly referred to as a “Concurrent H-1B.”

The second employer who seeks to engage the H-1B worker in concurrent employment must go through the entire H-1B process as well as convince the USCIS that the employee is eligible for an H-1B and that the second job is a specialty occupation. This means that the employer must also pay the prevailing wages for a job code that is appropriate to the concurrent position. The second employer must initiate the application by filing a Labour Condition Application (LCA) attesting to these and other H-1 requirements.

The concurrent H-1B employment need not fall under the same specialty occupation as that of the applicant’s first employment.

A concurrent H-1B cannot be filed at the time of the initial H-1B selection for that employee that would be subject to the annual cap and the employer needs the employee’s services for a full-time job, which generally involves 35-40 hours of work a week. The employee may file a concurrent H-1B petition after the employee has an approved H-1B petition and the individual enters the U.S. in valid H-1B status.

There is no limit on the number of concurrent H-1Bs an employee can hold. But the cumulative hours that the employee will work must be plausible and possible.

One of the most important points to remember is that while H-1B employees are not permitted to work under contract, part-time employees, who do not need a visa sponsor, frequently do so. Thus, to maintain concurrent visa status, an employer-employee relation is crucial. It is therefore advisable to make sure foreign nationals are retained on the employer’s payroll and have a W-2 to confirm their employment with respective employers.

The USCIS does not require the primary sponsoring company be informed about the applicant’s H-1B concurrent employment. However, the second employer must specifically select “Concurrent Employment” in Form I-129 when filing the H-1B petition for concurrent employment.

One of the major concerns most H-1B applicants have is whether they can hold their second employment even if they have left or have been terminated from the original sponsoring company. It is important to note here that the non-immigrant will continue to maintain his H-1B status and can continue to work for the second employer irrespective of any changes in his first employment.

While this is a good avenue for a lot of H-1B visa holders to earn more and improve their financial status, having an approved H-1B petition does not automatically result in an approval of the concurrent H-1B petition.

With inputs from Manizeh Mistry, Associate Partner at LawQuest.

Students on OPT status do not need new work visa if they do not need new work visa if they do not have to leave the US.

Students on OPT status do not need new work visa if they do not need new work visa if they do not have to leave the US.

The US mission in India has recently announced that a record 82,000 student visas have been issued in 2022 and Indian students have received more US student visas than any other country. Even as the number of Indian students going to campuses in the US goes up, the number on optional practical training visas, too, has seen a sharp rise over the past few years. For Indian students, OPT is an option to work in the US after their studies. According to the Open Doors survey in November 2020, which tracks international student numbers, there were 81,173 Indian students enrolled for the OPT programme.

International students on F-1 visas at US universities are eligible for OPT, temporary employment directly related to the applicant’s major area of study. Students on F-1 visas who finish their courses in the US, do not need a job offer to apply for OPT. The applicant may work for more than one employer or job, but all employment must be related to the degree programme that they have studied. Employment must be for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

While all international students can apply to receive up to 12 months of OPT employment authorisation before completing their studies (pre-completion) and/or after completing their academic studies (post-completion); the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) OPT programme permits F-1 students earning bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees in certain fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to work in their field of study. To be eligible for the 24-month OPT STEM extension, the applicant must be employed by, or have a job offer from, an employer who is registered with the E-Verify employment verification system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration. Such employment must be paid and full-time.

Even as OPT provides flexibility for Indian students to remain in the US after they finish their study programmes; applicants need to maintain legal F-1 OPT status during the entire period of employment. “Evidence must be acquired from the employer to verify that those on OPT status worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment. Once the post course completion OPT period starts, one must not accrue more than 90 days of unemployment within the dates on the EAD (employment authorisation document),” says Mumbai and Florida based immigration lawyer Poorvi Chothani. Post-completion OPT is any portion of OPT used after the student’s programme end date while pre-completion is any portion of OPT used before the student’s programme end date.

Chothani adds that applicants should submit an OPT update and report employment on the office of international students and scholars (OISS) student portal in order to stop the unemployment counting in Student Exchange & Visitor Information System. “Any time spent outside the United States, if not employed by a US employer, is counted towards the 90-day period of unemployment.
Unemployment days are cumulative, so if the OPT holder is employed for less than the length of the OPT time and begins to look for another employer, they do not get an additional 90 days of unemployment,” Chothani says.

Those who have not been unemployed for 90 days of post-completion OPT or 150 days of post-completion and STEM OPT extension periods, are given a 60-day grace period following the completion of the OPT. “This grace period is meant to give time to prepare for departure from the US unless the holder of the OPT visa successfully adjusts their status to a different type of visa or has enrolled in another approved graduate programme,” Chothani said.

In a recent interview to a news agency, US minister counsellor for consular affairs in India, Don Heflin, said that Indian students who are in the US on OPT and were travelling back to India, would need to get
a visa stamped on their passports before returning to the US. This summer, Indian students on F1 OPT visas, who travel to travel to India, have been given the flexibility of dropbox appointments, which means they don’t have to appear for in-person visa interviews to get their passports stamped. However, Indian students in the US, who are approved for OPT and have work authorisation (EAD) and a valid student visa status both with their university and United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) do not need to get a new visa if they are not leaving the US.

F-1 OPT holders may change their status to other visa categories. “Frequently, OPT holders change their status to H-1B work visas depending on whether they wish to continue working with their OPT employer who is willing to sponsor them or if they have found a new employer who is willing to sponsor their H-1B. Either way they will need to be selected in the H-1B lottery,” says Chothani.

While OPT is a benefit of F1 status that allows students to work for one year ( possibly longer if the student is eligible for an extension), H-1B is a separate non-immigrant classification specifically for employment. The sponsoring employer must file an H1-B vias petition as ‘Change of status’ within a stipulated time. “Generally, once the H1-B visa petition is approved, the student’s status changes from F-1 (OPT) to H-1B from October 1 of that year. There is no need to procure a visa stamp to begin working on H-1B status. However, if the individual leaves the US, he or she will need a new H-1B visa to return to the US to work on H-1B status,” Chothani says.

1 2 3