The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for many years has used an online system for the annual March lottery for petitions that are subject to the H-1B Cap.

The USCIS has now expanded this system to allow the following to be filed electronically:

  • H-1B petitions that were chosen in this year’s lottery
  • H-1B petitions that are not subject to the lottery (“Cap Exempt”)
  • Extensions of H-1B work visas for employees who are not subject to the cap
  • H-1B petitions where premium processing is requested.

Online filing for non-cap H-1B petitions became available on Monday. Cap petitions for Fiscal Year 2025 that were selected in the lottery can be filed online starting next Monday, April 1.

This is the first time that online filing has been made available for an employment-based petition, but it is available only for the H-1B category. Online filing has been available for years for many non-employment-based filings, including Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card), Form I-130 Petition (Petition for Alien Relative), Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document), Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), and Form N-400 (Application for Naturalization).

Is online filing right for you?

Online filing of H-1B petitions is not required, and as we’ll discuss below, there may be some good reasons to stay “low tech” for now. Although paper filing is still an option, beginning next Monday, the location for paper filing will change. All paper-filed Form I-129 petitions requesting H-1B classification (and H-1B1, for Chilean and Singapore nationals), as well as related filings, must be filed at a USCIS lockbox facility and not at a USCIS Service Center.

The USCIS has touted the expected efficiencies and time-saving that accrue to online filers. For example, although the USCIS acknowledges that the processing times for online-filed and paper-filed cases are the same, it stresses that “online filing has time-saving features not related to our internal workflows:

  • “If you submit the form online, the filing will get to us faster because you will avoid the time needed for the U.S. Postal Service or other carrier to deliver the filing.
  • “The filing will not be subject to standard file creation steps in our lockbox facilities.
  • “You will not have to wait for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver a hard copy of the receipt notice in the mail.
  • “Additionally, you can receive and respond to [Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny] faster through a USCIS online account.”

Not having to wait to receive a hard copy of the receipt notice in the mail will ease the anxiety of employers and their attorneys. However, this benefit is far less significant when filing via premium processing because premium processing already provides an email notification of receipt shortly after filing.

Beta version?

A big negative to filing petitions electronically is that many immigration lawyers use third-party case management systems to assist in the preparation of forms. The USCIS has advised, “At this time, we do not have an application programming interface that allows you to use third-party software to complete forms using the myUSCIS online platform.” The inability to use third-party case management means that many immigration lawyers will choose not to file online.

Second, Applications (for Extension/Change of Status or for Employment Authorization) for H-4 spouses and children of H-1Bs cannot be submitted with an online Form I-129. In other words, even if the H-1B petition is filed online, the applications for the applicant’s spouse and children have to be filed via paper along with a hard-copy receipt for the online filing of the H-1B petition.

Third, there were significant glitches that arose during the H-1B lottery process – to the extent that the USCIS had to extend the registration deadline from the original March 22 to March 25. Thus, it might be prudent to avoid filing online until the USCIS works out some of the bugs in the system.


Online filing of H-1B and other employment-based petitions certainly is the goal of the USCIS and promises more efficiencies in our immigration system. However, employers and their attorneys may want to stick with paper for the foreseeable future, just to be safe and to avoid frustration.

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