The Lottery Trends
The H-1B highly specialized worker category started in 1990. The demand for this visa required the approval process to be fair and random, which resulted in the lottery process for all visas under cap employers. Currently, the statutory allowance is 65,000 visas annually, plus 20,000 more allowed for professionals applying with a master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution of higher education in the US.
The lottery window lasts about two weeks, and there are too many applicants by the time it closes. Those who submit complete applications are placed in the lottery, and the 85,000 (total) winners are notified and given a limited time frame in which they must finish the application process for the H-1B visa petition. Anyone not selected is also notified, and their application fees are returned.
However, if any of the selected lottery winners have denied applications for violations or other reasons, a second-chance drawing may be implemented.
During COVID, the H-1B visa process for new petitions was halted, and those in the country were permitted to work remotely as the landscape shifted. Since the world re-opened and the 2020 ban expired, the number of H-1B applications has returned to its high level of normal.
Changes on the Horizon
One of the advantages of the H-1B visa is the requirement that foreign workers receive a prevailing wage as compared to those in similar positions in the country. Previously, the lowest wage threshold was at the 17th percentile of all wages in a particular industry. Changes by the Department of Labor in 2021 increase this to the 35th percentile, although the rule has not been officially implemented yet.
Another change is an increase in rigor for first-time applicants and those attempting to renew their visas. Because of the potential for fraud in this system, USCIS has raised its Requests for Evidence (RFEs) rate to ensure the employer, job offer, and candidate are all legitimate.
Fee increases occurred in 2022 with the intent of ensuring USCIS recovers the cost of operational requirements. Premium processing of Form I539 to change and extend status is in legislation. However, many categories remain behind due to a backlog at USCIS, and premium processing availability often depends on how behind the original applications are.
Each fiscal year brings with it a high flurry of applications, rejections, and denials for employers and petitioners. Lottery registration is now a simple application with an affordable cost of filing fee plus legal fees for those who use an immigration attorney instead of the previous full application costs. Winners submit the remaining fees, along with the completed petition.
Yet, with the favorable changes in technology and remote work making it easier to submit applications and providing faster turnaround from USCIS, the H-1B visa outlook continues to look promising.
Renewal requests are streamlined, and applicants who meet the criteria and submit applications correctly (within deadlines) are likely to enter the lottery pool without unnecessary delays. Experts still recommend seeking out legal assistance to ensure you’re following all immigration laws and completing all details in the application process.
The H-1B visa is in-demand, and the changes make it more favorable for foreign workers to enter the United States. While this works to your advantage, it also makes the system even more competitive. Any mistake can mean your application is returned with an RFE attached to it, and by the time you submit the requested evidence, you may have missed the window.
It’s possible to skip this problem by using Visa2US to help you from start to finish. Our legal experts are here 24/7 to answer your questions and expedite the H-1B visa application process. Contact us online or over the phone today to see how we can help you take this next step in your career successfully.