H1B Lottery Process: Functioning & Requirements

The H1B visa lottery process is in full swing, as registration started on March 1, 2022. Many foreign professionals want to work in the United States due to the numerous opportunities offered in the country. This large number of applicants for U.S. visas obviously makes this a complex and selective process. The number of visas offered is much smaller than the overall number of applicants. The H-1B visa is a temporary or nonimmigrant U.S. visa for foreign nationals seeking temporary entry into the United States for employment in specialty occupations. Applicants are selected via a lottery that has a cap on the number of visas that will be approved. We are going to explain the H1B visa lottery process in this article.

H1B Lottery Process
H1B Lottery Process

H1B Application Process

Step 1. There must be a sponsor for the applicant

Step 2. This sponsor will submit a registration for the worker during the annual registration time during April. This requires minimal applicant details. 

Number of H1B Visas Issued Each Year

The total number of H1B visas that are available on an annual basis is 65,000 in the regular cap. An additional 20,000 visas are available to those applicants that have a Masters degree.

6,800 of the regular quota are  reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore due to a Free Trade Agreement.

How the H1B Lottery Functions 

This year the registration period takes place from March 1 – 18. Those that have been selected in the lottery are notified by March 31st.

  • The number of annual H1B registrations that come in at the time of the registration window are much higher than the annual cap level and the visa availability numbers.  
  • Registrations are not selected in the order they come in. The registration window therefore, stays open for the entire stated period, even after cap level has been crossed. 
  • When the registration window closes, USCIS selects applicants from the H1B lottery that can move on to the next stage. The applicants are chosen through a random selection process. 
  • The lottery results are selected randomly. They do not depend on when the registration was submitted or the merits of the registration. 
  • When the 65,000 H1B cap has been selected, 20,000 will be randomly selected from Masters Cap petitions. If any of the 20,000 are not selected, they will be returned to the regular cap.
  • Successful registrations will receive notifications and can submit their entire H1B petition by the deadline. The deadline is usually 90 days from the time of notification. 
  • Selection in the H1B visa lottery does not ensure that the visa will be approved. The petition will be considered along with the visa requirements and eligibility criteria. 

Unsuccessful H1B Applicants 

H-1B applicants that are unable to obtain it, have to wait for the next fiscal year before applying for an H-1B visa again.

H1B Visa Lottery Chances 

In  2019–2020 , applicants had a 32% chance of being selected in the H1B visa lottery.

Since the lottery happens once a year, applicants and their sponsors want to maximize their chances of obtaining an H1B visa. 

There are steps to minimize complications with the H-1B registration by paying attention to the following:

  • Ensure that all forms are completed correctly, all requested information and documents have been provided and the correct fees have been paid.
  • Don’t send in your H1B petition before the opening date of the application window in April.
  • Do submit the petition as soon as the window opens.
  • Ensure that you have the required degree or specialist experience to meet the requirements for the job.
  • Ensure that the job itself is eligible for an H1B visa.
  • Apply for each job offer you have with different employers.
  • Don’t send multiple applications for one position or one employer. If an employer makes multiple or duplicated H1B petitions for a single employee, they will be rejected and no refund offered.
  • Don’t enter a petition for a job that will start more than 6 months after the visa start date.
  • While these will not increase your chances of being selected, they can ensure you are avoiding any potential delays or problems with being included in the lottery selection process.

H1B Visa Lottery Success

You will be notified if you are selected through the H1B visa lottery.  You will then be asked to file your H1B cap petition.

Your employer must submit a Labour Condition Application form ETA-9035 (LCA) to the United States Department of Labour for certification, first. 

The LCA should state the employer’s agreement to:

  • pay you a wage that is not less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers, or if more than the wage of similarly qualified workers, to pay you a wage that is the generally accepted wage for such a position locally
  • provide you with working conditions that will not have a negative effect on other similarly employed workers, and that there is no current strike or lockout taking place when the Labour Condition Application is filed
  • Once the certification has been granted, the employer must submit a Non-immigrant Worker Petition form I-129 along with the certified LCA to the relevant USCIS Service Centre.

When the Non-immigrant Worker Petition is approved, you can apply for your visa through the Online Non-immigrant Visa Application system form DS-160. This will require you to attend an interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate.

H1B Visa Requirements

The H1B visa is a temporary non-immigrant worker visa that enables  US businesses and organizations to employ graduate level or  specialist foreign nationals in speciality occupations.

 ‘Speciality Occupations’ are defined as occupations which require the practical and theoretical application of highly specialized knowledge. This includes fields such as engineering, computing or medicine.

For eligibility for an H1B visa,  the applicant must have an  employment offer in an appropriate role from a US employer and must fulfill at least one of the following criteria::

  • A US bachelor’s or higher degree in the relevant speciality occupation from an accredited educational institution.
  • An equivalent foreign degree in the speciality occupation.
  • An unrestricted state license, registration or certification which allows you to carry out and be employed in the speciality occupation in the US state where the employment is based.
  • Education, training or experience in the speciality that is equivalent to a degree and that you are recognised as having a suitable level of expertise in the speciality.

The H1B eligibility requirements for your job require at least one of the following:

  • The job’s minimum entry requirement is a bachelor’s degree or higher degree, or an equivalent qualification and experience.
  • The requirement of a degree for this job must be the norm for the related industry, or the job must be so complicated or specialized that it can only be carried out by an individual who has a degree.
  • The employer requires a degree or equivalent for anyone employed for the job.
  • The duties involved in the job are so complex and specialized that the knowledge level generally associated with a person who holds a bachelor’s or higher degree is required.

H1B Visa Alternatives 

If the H1B petition is not accepted, there are alternative visas that can be considered. The L1 visa for intracompany transferee roles is one of these. The O1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, athletics or business is another. 

Also Read: H1B Visa Extension: Process, Options & Fees

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How many H1B visas does the lottery offer ?

The H1B lottery offers 65000 visas in the regular cap. It offers 20,000 additional visas to those who have a Master’s degree.

When does the H1B lottery take place ?

The registration period takes place from March 1 – 18. Those that have been selected in the lottery are notified by March 31st.

What are the chances of being selected in the lottery ?

In  2019–2020 , applicants had a 32% chance of being selected in the H1B visa lottery.

What happens to applicants who are not selected in the H1B lottery ?

H-1B applicants that are unable to obtain it, have to wait for the next fiscal year before applying for an H-1B visa again.

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