Understanding H-1B Visa Regulations and the Lottery System

many people in room with hands raised

There are hundreds of thousands of applicants for H-1B visas every year. However, there are only around 85,000 H-1B visas available. Due to the limited number of available H-1B visas, a lottery system is used to choose applicants accepted for further review. Whether you are a highly skilled employee hoping to work in the United States or an employer hoping to hire a foreign national, understanding the H-1B visa lottery system is crucial.

How Does the H-1B Lottery Work?

The purpose of the H-1B visa lottery system is to fairly and impartially address the overwhelming demand for H-1B visas. The lottery system ensures equal opportunities for all eligible applicants. The lottery process is randomized, allowing for the selection of beneficiaries from a massive pool of applicants without personal bias or favoritism.

During the designated registration period, employers or their authorized representatives electronically register prospective H-1B applicants. The registration window is usually the first two weeks of March. Next, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses a computer-generated random selection process to choose enough applicants to meet the annual cap.

If chosen through the lottery, you will be invited to submit your completed H-1B visa petition and all required documents within the specified time frame. Your petition will be subject to further review and evaluation. In other words, you are not guaranteed a visa because you are chosen in the lottery. It's important to work with an attorney who can ensure your petition is thorough, accurate, and meets all relevant requirements. Otherwise, you could still be denied.

Advanced Degree Exemption Cap

An advanced degree exemption cap is reserved for applicants with a master's degree or a higher-level degree earned from an accredited U.S. educational institutions. The annual H-1B lottery is conducted independently from the general cap and the advanced degree exemption cap. First, the USCIS selects a sufficient number of applicants from the pool of applicants with advanced degrees to meet the 20,000 advanced degree exemption cap. Any applicants who have not been selected from this pool will be placed in the general cap lottery with 65,000 additional slots.

What are the Odds of Succeeding in the H-1B Lottery?

Every year, the chance of being selected for an H-1B visa changes based on how many applicants register. In recent years, the odds of being chosen have been around 30%. Since advanced degree exemption applicants have access to both lottery pools, they generally have a higher chance of selection than other candidates.

Reach Out to a Skilled Immigration Attorney

The H-1B lottery process is random and unbiased, giving every registrant the same opportunity to be selected. However, there are certain steps you can take to increase your likelihood of successfully obtaining an employment-based visa in the U.S. Do not hesitate to contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Ray Law International to learn more about how we can help you.