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The H1B Lottery & its Significant Role in the H1B Visa Process
April 3, 2022
8 mins
Closeup view of H1B Visa entry admitted stamp by Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America .

In this article, we have explained everything you need to know about the:

  • H1B Lottery and the steps in the process
  • Option to use if you are not selected
  • Tips to improve your chances of getting selected in the lottery

Obtaining an H1B visa is a dream for millions of foreign applicants aspiring to work in the US. Issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the H1B visa comes with a three-year validity which can be extended to an additional three years if required. It is a well-known fact that not every applicant is lucky enough to obtain an H1B visa. That's because the USCIS is mandated to issue only a set number of H1B visas every year.

Under the H1B visa cap, the maximum number of H1B visas issued is as follows:

  • Regular cap- 65,000.
  • Citizens of Chile and Singapore- 6,800 (Under the regular cap as a part of the Free Trade Agreement).
  • Applicants with a Master's degree- 20,000.

The H1B registration window is open for a specific duration during which the USCIS accepts any number of applications. Although the USCIS issues only the above-mentioned number of H1B visas, the number of H1B registrations exceeds the annual cap and the number of available visas. With the H1B visa, the selection is not on a first-come, first-serve basis. Here's where the H1B lottery plays a significant role in randomly selecting H1B petitions that will move on to the next stage.

Before you checkout the role of the lottery in H1B visa process, read H1B Visa Process & Other Must-know Details.

What is H1B Visa Lottery?

Launched in 2007 by the USCIS, the H1B visa lottery system was implemented to fulfill the H1B cap. The computer-based lottery system is only used by the USCIS when the number of applications exceeds the number of H1B slots. Like every lottery, the H1B lottery process is also very random. It is not based on:

  • When the registrations are made.
  • Evaluation of the merit of registration.

Once the lottery process is over, the USCIS notifies the selected applicants through their respective employers and invites them to submit their full H1B petitions within 90 days from the date of notification.

One of the most important points to note is that getting selected in the H1B visa selection process does not guarantee an H1B visa. Obtaining an H1B visa is based purely on the eligibility criteria and assessment of the visa requirements.

The Lottery H1B & its Processes

The information about the H1B lottery is confusing for most people. The process is entirely based on luck by chance, where the algorithm is first run on a combined pool of applicants to select the first 65,000 petitions under the regular cap. The algorithm then selects 20,000 master's applicants to fill the advanced degree visas. Before 2020, the USCIS rule stated that the algorithm would first be used to select the 20,000 master's applicants. The remaining 65,000 slots would be filled from the regular applicants pooled with those not selected here.

The process was reversed in 2020 so that master's applicants were given greater priority.

Why? A master's degree is estimated to earn more in the US, and these employees are also highly valued for their education, skills, and other qualifications. Therefore, the bias.

Also Read Analyzing Your H1B Lottery Chances

What happens after the H1B visa selection process is over?

Those favored by luck and chosen in the lottery move on to the next stage of the H1B visa selection process. Employers or attorneys of the chosen applicants get busy submitting the H1B petition using the H1B Petition Online Tool. It is important to note the H1B lottery is only a phase in the H1B process.

The USCIS waits until all the registrations are submitted within the stipulated timeframe before it runs the lottery. The following step-by-step guide will help you understand the details of what transpires after the H1B lottery is over.

Step 1: The employers of selected applicants receive notifications from the USCIS.

An email notification from the USCIS indicates that an applicant has been chosen by the lottery process. The email is sent to the employer indicating changes in the registration status. If an applicant is chosen, their online registration status will read "Selected." The employer can print the H1B Registration Selection Notice.

Depending on where it was filed, your employer or attorney will get a receipt number that begins with EAC or WAC. Using this receipt number, you may log in to the USCIS website and check the H1B Visa Petition Status to know if you have been selected or not. USCIS also allows you to sign up for a free online account to track your status. Applicants not selected in the first lottery round are wait-listed until the end of the fiscal year.

Step 2: Employers file the H1B petition on behalf of their prospective foreign employees.

Using the H1B Registration Selection Notice, employers or attorneys file the H1B petition for their future workers chosen in the lottery process. The USCIS provides a window of 90 days (starting from April 1st to June 30th) to fill and submit the H1B form. As a part of the filing process, the employer or company attorney has to:

  • File for H1B Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor and get it approved.
  • Prepare the H1B application with all the details about the chosen registrants.
  • Obtain all the necessary documents from the employee.
  • Mail the filled H1B petition to the USCIS before the last date of the 90-day window.

Step 3: The USCIS verifies, processes, and adjudicates the H1B petitions.

In the next step, the USCIS processes all the received H1B packages and sends out H1B receipt notices via email. If your H1B has been selected in the lottery, the next step will be to file the petition. At this point there are two options available for filing with varied processing times. One is the regular processing and the other is the premium processing.

Step 4: USCIS conducts another lottery round as needed and updates the final H1B lottery results.

On the off chance that the H1B cap remains unfulfilled, the USCIS runs another lottery round to select the required number of remaining applicants.Every applicant hopes and prays that luck favors them in the H1B lottery process. However, with only 85,000 registrations being the H1B cap, there's a good chance you may not be selected. Hence, it is always wise to have Plan B if the lottery does not work in your favor.

List of Options if Not Selected in the H1B Lottery

Knowing that you are not selected in the H1B lottery can be quite a dampener. However, there is no time to sit and brood because it is not the end of the road. There are some options to try and ensure you obtain a job and fulfill your dream of working in the USA. You can:

Check your OPT Eligibility

Let's say you are already a student in the USA with an F1 visa, and you are due to finish in the forthcoming spring. If you have applied for H1B visa selection process, and you aren't selected, you always have your Optional Practical Training (OPT) to fall back on. This F1 OPT gives you a 12-month extension to remain in the US and work on your student visa.

Your OPT's start and end date determine if you can stay until the next application registration process that opens for the next fiscal year in April. In that case, if you apply before your OPT expires, you can continue working until the H1B process is complete.

Utilize your STEM degree

Using your STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is a good option if your:

  • H1B petition was not selected in the visa lotteries.
  • OPT period is coming to an end.

These criteria make you eligible to apply for a further 2-year extension, giving you a total of 36 months after you complete your degree. You can use this time to reapply for an H1B visa in the upcoming fiscal year.

Use your H4 visa

If you had applied for a Change of Status from an H4 visa to an H1B and were not selected in the process, you can apply for a degree or postgraduation course. This gives you a chance to change your visa status from H4 to F1. It also gives you the opportunity to:

  • Remain in the US and become eligible for OPT.
  • Apply for a job at a university.
  • Volunteer at a university to increase your chances of being an H1B sponsorship beneficiary.

Check for L1B or L1 A visa eligibility

If your employer has offices in the US and abroad, you are eligible for an L1A or L1B visa, as long as your work period extends for over a year. If not, your only option is to wait and try again in the following fiscal year.

What to Expect with H1B Lottery 2022

The H1B Cap 2022 registration period lasted from March 9th to March 21st, 2021. For the Fiscal year 2022, the USCIS received 308,613 H1B registrations.

In the first round of the H1B Lottery 2022, about 87,500 registrations were initially selected. By further conducting the H1B second lottery 2022 and H1B 3rd lottery, the number of final registrations reached 131,970.

Please note: On March 29th, 2022, the USCIS announced an official press note regarding the FY 2023 results. However, it has not yet announced the official number of received H1B registrations.

Tips to Improve Your Chances in the H1b Lottery

Of course, the H1b lottery is based on random selection. The question is: Are there ways to boost your chances of being selected and progressing to further stages in the lottery? Yes, there are some ways to push your luck and boost your chances of being chosen in the lottery.

You should:

  • Ensure that all forms are completely filled with accurate and relevant information.
  • Submit all the required documentation and pay the correct filing fees.
  • Submit the petition only after the opening date of the application window in April.
  • Submit the petition when the date is announced, and the registration window opens.
  • Ensure you meet the educational qualifications and the specialist experience requirements for the job.
  • Ensure the job you've applied for is eligible for an H1B visa.
  • Submit separate applications for each job position if you have applied to different employers.
  • Ensure your employer is reliable by enquiring about the success rate of their previous H1B applications.

Do Not:

  • Send multiple applications for one job position or employer. The USCIS will reject multiple or duplicated applications without any fee refund.
  • Enter a petition for a job that commences more than six months after the visa start date.
  • Pay the fee for yourself. Your employer should sponsor your H1B application fee. Your employer can also pay the premium fee if you opt for premium processing.

To Summarize

Are you eagerly awaiting the H1B lottery after registration? You ought to know that calculating the probability can be challenging since random selection can be based on the process.

First, we must know how many petitions were submitted in the fiscal year 2023 lottery to figure out your H1B lottery chances in 2022. We can only make estimates based on previous years' data since the initial period is yet to begin.

However, luck may favor candidates qualifying for advanced degree exemption since they are entered into both pools for the lottery. Bear in mind that your H1B lottery odds depend on two factors:

  1. Number of submissions USCIS receives.
  2. Your eligibility for the master's quota or regular cap.

The entire H1B visa process is highly detailed and complex. Please contact our team at TechFetch H1B if you require expert guidance regarding your journey for an H1B visa.

**Disclaimer: All details regarding the H1B visa are subject to change. Kindly refer to USCIS' official website for updated information.

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