The Annual Limits
When the H-1B visa category was originally designed, the creators likely didn’t realize it would be as popular as it is today. Yet, from the start, there was more demand than the supply available. The branch in charge of the visa, United States Immigration and Citizenship Services, quickly instituted a lottery to ensure fair and random selection.
This lottery process set a limit of 65,000 regular visas and 20,000 additional for advanced degree holders. The regulations allow any approved US employer to petition for a highly skilled foreign worker if an American native couldn’t fill the job vacancy. These cap-subject visas are submitted by a pre-set date and then entered into a lottery. Other petitions for cap-exempt jobs can be submitted anytime throughout the year.
Entering H-1B Fiscal Year 2024
Each year, the allotment of H-1B visas refreshes at the beginning of the USCIS Fiscal Year. These aren’t your normal calendar dates. The Fiscal Year (FY) begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.
So, with those dates in mind, 2024’s FY begins on October 1, 2023, and ends on September 30, 2024. Petitions for these visas may be submitted six months before the start date, bringing us to April 1, 2023.
USCIS starts the process of visa selection a few weeks before that date so that petitioners are notified of their selection and can begin filing their full application on track with the April 1 timeline. The 2024 season lasts from the date the submission window is open through the date beneficiaries start working. Employers use these dates to plan for when their vacant positions will be filled with an H-1B holder.
2024’s Booming Timeline
The H-1B visa season is highly competitive. If it’s your first time filing, you’re facing an extra busy season. USCIS’s announcement of the first lottery window on February 21, 2023, when employers and H-1B sponsors could begin creating registrant accounts, coincided with many other changes in the H-1B landscape.
Global headlines shouted about the massive tech layoffs amongst H-1B visa holders employed by places like Amazon, Meta, and Google. These employees filled vacancies during the pandemic, but now that most people have returned to work, the demand for so many virtual positions has significantly diminished. Other non-H-1B visa holders were also laid off. With so many skilled workers looking for employment, employers find it difficult to agree with the clause in the Labor Conditions Application that states there are no available US citizens with the skills to do the job.
Additionally, hitting H-1B applicants was the news released by USCIS of an impending fee hike. This is currently under negotiation by the government, but if it is approved, which is most likely to happen, H-1B and Green Card applicants will feel the financial effects. Many employers attempted to get a jump on that fee increase by hiring foreign workers now rather than waiting until next year.
On top of these already challenging changes is the political landscape. The Biden Administration has hinted at scaling up the requirements for H-1B skilled workers, making the criteria for approval more stringent.
The FY 2024 lottery predictions are still in the tally stages. Demand for H-1B visas continues to be more than the allotted number. When that happens, a lottery takes place. As of now, there are substantially more petitions than the 85,000 cap.
To find out if your petition was selected, log in under the sponsor’s account and check the status of the account. Employers will be notified after March 31, 2023.
Whether your petition was approved or denied, you’ll need help taking those next steps. At Visa2US, our friendly, skilled legal experts are available 24/7 to remove the confusion from a complex process. Let us help you navigate dealing with USCIS and the government, so you can focus on improving your career or business.