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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed a new rule that could prove to be a time-saver for businesses seeking to file H-1B petitions in the coming years.

H-1B visas allow employers to temporarily bring in foreign workers in specialty occupations, but in order to do so, they must first obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA) and then file an H-1B petition. Often, the time and money spent on this process is for naught because the annual cap for H-1B visas has been met before the employer’s petition is considered.

The propose rule would establish a period before the opening of the H-1B filing period in which employers could electronically register in advance. Then USCIS would select the registrations that could be accepted under the cap. Employers would then only file H-1B visas for those registrations that had been accepted, preventing them from having to spend time and filing fees on petitions that are ultimately denied because the cap had been met.

The proposed rule, which is expected to save businesses more than $23 million over 10 years, was posted to the Federal Register on March 3, and comments on the rule will be accepted through May 2. The earliest the rule could go into effect would be for fiscal year 2013 H-1B filing, which opens in April 2012.

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