The H-1B visa lottery will likely be held sometime this week if the past few years are any indication. The number of H-1B visas available every year is currently capped at 85,000, of which 20,000 are only available to applicants with advanced degrees. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept H-1B petitions until they have reached that cap or for the first five business days of April. If the cap level is exceeded in the processing period, a lottery is held to determine which petitions are processed. In every year since 2013 (Fiscal Year 2014), the number of petitions in the first five days has exceeded the cap level, necessitating a lottery. The same will likely happen in 2019 (Fiscal Year 2020).
Why do we say ‘good luck’? Because the H-1B selection process basically comes down to luck. It’s completely up to chance whose approved petition is selected during the lottery. The exact odds that an application is chosen varies depending on how many applications are submitted during the filing season. Odds are also dependent on how many of the applications received have a master’s exemption. The odds of receiving an H-1B visa have always been much higher if the petitioner has earned a master’s degree or higher in the United States, but a recent rule change made the advantage even greater.
Under the rule change, the lottery is conducted differently. There are two phases to the H-1B lottery. Prior to this year, the first phase would choose 20,000 advanced degree holders and the second phase would choose 65,000 from the remaining advanced degree holders and non-advanced degree holders. The rule change reverses the order of the two phases. This year, 65,000 applications are chosen first, followed by 20,000 applications with a master’s exemption. This change effectively increases the number of master’s exempt applications that are chosen.
Let’s use last year’s application numbers as an example. There were 95,885 H-1B applications with a master’s exemption and 94,213 applications without. For applications with the master’s exemption, there was a 21% chance of being selected in the first phase and a 38% chance of being selected in the 2nd phase. Overall, H-1B petitions with a master’s degree had a 51% chance of being selected. Petitions without a master’s degree had a 38% chance. With the rule change, the chance for a master’s degree applicant increases to 55% and non-master’s degree applicant decreases to 34%.
With the H-1B filing season likely concluded, there’s nothing an applicant can do but wait for the results of the lottery. Applications that are not chosen for processing will have their filing fee reimbursed. If you filed an H-1B application and weren’t lucky enough to have your petition chosen, there may be other avenues to live and work legally in the United States. Speak with an immigration lawyer today! Call the Law Offices of Scott Warmuth at 888-517-9888 to receive a free consultation.