Every April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting applications for H-1B visas, non-immigrant visas for specialized occupation workers. The current cap on H-1B visas is 65,000, with an additional 20,000 available to applicants with advanced degrees received at accredited universities in the U.S. USCIS begins accepting application filings on April on the first business day of April and accepts them for at least five business days or until the H-1B visa cap has been reached. Since 2014, more H-1B applications were filed in the first five business days than the number of visas issued. This extremely limited time that USCIS accepts applications has become known as H-1B Season.
When the number of applications in the initial filing period exceeds the number of visas available, USCIS chooses 85,000 of those applications in a random selection process known as the H-1B Lottery. The lottery works in two stages:
65,000 applications are chosen in a random selection. Selected applications are processed.
Applications not selected in the first stage that contain an advanced degree exemption are entered into a second random selection, sometimes called the “master’s lottery.” 20,000 applications are chosen at random to be processed. Applications not chosen in either stage are automatically rejected.
Applicants who are not chosen in the H-1B Lottery will have their filing fees refunded. In 2018, 105,098 applications were not chosen in the lottery. H-1B visas are one of the most sought after visas to live and work legally in the United States, with every available H-1B visa being claimed since 2003. Applicants with a master’s or doctorate do have a better chance of being selected, but are not guaranteed to receive a visa. Hiring an immigration lawyer can prevent your H-1B application from being ineligible for the lottery.
The Law Offices of Scott Warmuth helps H-1B seekers and business prepare their visa applications and submit them accurately during the brief application window. We will be hosting an H-1B Immigration Seminar on February 16th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at our City of Industry office location. To RSVP, please send us an email. For a free immigration consultation, call us at 888-517-9888.
** This post has been updated to reflect the new H-1B lottery order.