Learn How The H-1B Visa Lottery Works

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Understanding The H-1B Visa Lottery

The H-1B Visa Lottery is a process used to determine which of the several hundred thousand H-1B applications will be one of the final 85,000 chosen in a given fiscal year.

The filing window for the H-1B for the fiscal year, which starts October 1, opens on April 1 and typically closes 5 business days later.

For both employers and qualified foreign nationals, H-1B visas, which allow educated, degreed foreign workers to hold specialty positions in the U.S., are always highly coveted and in great demand. This demand is evidenced by the 100,000-200,000+ H-1B visa petitions the United States Citizen and Immigration (USCIS) generally receives within the first few days of the application submission period. And as the demand for these slots is considerably greater than the available supply, a “lottery” is held to determine which petitions are ultimately chosen.

Each fiscal year, the USCIS caps its allotment at 85,000 new H-1B visa slots per its quota, which falls into the following categories:

  • 20,000 “Master’s Cap” or advanced degree slots, which are designated for those foreign nationals with Master’s-level education or higher
  • 58,200 “normal” H-1B slots, for bachelor-degree (or equivalent level) foreign nationals
  • 6,800 slots set aside for Chile and Singapore foreign nationals

After about the first week of the application period, the USCIS will normally have received well in excess of the number of petitions it has slots for, and so will close the application process on the 5th business day of April. Any applications received after the submission period will be rejected, and the accompanying filing fees returned.

The “lottery” commences next, which is simply a computer-generated random selection process.

Of note here is that all “master’s cap” petitions that were not selected in that specific lottery, which occurs first, will be added to the pool from which the “normal” 58,200 H-1B visas are selected, in effect allowing those petitions to be part of two drawings.

Once the final lottery has commenced, and the 85,000 petitions have been selected, all unselected petitions will be rejected and their filing fees returned to the sponsoring party. However, multiple or duplicate applications will not have their filing fees returned, but they will be denied.

Aside from the fiscal year H-1B visa lottery, the USCIS will continue to process petitions that are exempt from the cap, which could include:

  • Extension petitions for current H-1B workers
  • Changes or alterations in employment status of current H-1B workers
  • Petitions to allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in an additional H-1B position
  • Petitions to work for a cap exempt employer

For more information on the H-1B Visa lottery, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online. Also visit our web site’s H-1B Visa section to learn even more about the H-1B Visa. 

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.