How the H-1B Lottery System Works
Skilled foreign workers can receive and accept job offers from US employers provided all parties involved are approved under the H-1B visa qualifications. Some of those jobs are for cap-exempt institutions, which include higher-level learning facilities, certain nonprofit entities, and government branches associated with those establishments.
However, any employer that does not meet the cap-exempt criteria must first petition for a visa through the lottery system, which is extremely limited. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people register online to be entered into the lottery. When the window closes, 20,000 participants with advanced degrees are selected to continue the visa petition process, and 65,000 more from the general pool are chosen.
This online registration significantly cut down on the work from previous years, when employers would file a completed H-1B petition, which was either rejected or marked as received through postal mail. The complicated process involved submitting full fees, then having USCIS return them if the application wasn’t chosen. The work on both sides was unnecessary, and the online process with a simple $10 registration fee reduced the need for hundreds of hours of review.
Fixing One Problem, Causing Another
However, the opposite problem occurred. Now that the online registration system is a simple fee and five easy questions, there are too many applications, and many of them aren’t legitimate job offers. The massive number of petitioners versus the limited amount of visas means that a person’s odds of selection decreased.
Worse, many applicants learned how to “play” the system by submitting multiple applications under different employers. This way, they had a better chance of being chosen as one of the H-1B visa recipients. While this is technically supposed to result in invalidating all the petitions, USCIS doesn’t always know which job offers are legitimate and which ones are from someone trying to game the system.
For instance, in FY 2023, USCIS received nearly 500,000 applications in the lottery. One hundred twenty-four thousand registrants were selected and notified, although there are only 85,000 visas allotted. This implies that the government agency expected tens of thousands of employers to retract their applications and not complete the whole process.
The Need For a Change
Running this system the way it currently works is inherently flawed, and USCIS knows there’s a need for change. In government systems, change comes slowly. Currently, legislation is in process requesting a larger budget or fee increase to assist the agency in updating infrastructure and training and retaining staff.
But changing the lottery as it is right now isn’t on the priority list. However, if USCIS receives the funding it needs to better train staff and update the software used, those submitting multiple registrations should be caught easier and earlier, clearing the way for legitimate applicants to increase their chances of selection.
Until the lottery system runs perfectly, it’s going to be challenging to navigate. But when you have the professional legal experts at Visa2US on your side, your chances of obtaining an H-1B visa increase substantially!
With a legal immigration expert working on your case, you minimize mistakes and delays that could cost you your spot in the H-1B processing line. Contact us today to see how we can assist you in your journey to finding a career in the United States!