As sought-after as it is, the H-1B visa has significant restrictions that make it difficult to obtain. At its core, the visa is intended for skilled workers who have bachelor’s degrees or higher and substantial experience or education in their field. The employer isn’t permitted to extend a job offer until the company has undergone extensive scrutiny to prove that the position is legitimate, qualifies as a specialty job, and that no American workers are available to fill the opening.
But even once those qualifications are met, there’s still no guarantee that the visa is yours. Instead, the beneficiary’s sponsor needs to pay attention to all windows and deadlines, register for the lottery as soon as the window opens, and wait to see if the registration is one of the 65,000 (or 20,000 additional if the registrant has an advanced degree) selected.
But wait, there’s more!
Once the registration is selected, sponsors and workers must complete layers of paperwork and screening processes before USCIS releases a visa. If anything doesn’t meet the vigorous scrutiny, the fees and time spent applying for the visa are wasted.
The Outdated System
One would think these restrictions would minimize the number of applicants, but the truth is the opposite. The high number of submissions continues to increase each year, reducing the probability of any one person’s selection. But some companies attempt to work around the regulations, duplicating submissions and making fraudulent attempts to obtain the visa, and the system itself makes it easy for this to pass through the cracks.
Before 2020, it was more cumbersome and expensive to submit a petition for an H-1B visa. Sponsors had to complete the full paperwork, pay all the fees for each form, and include supporting documentation. If the petition wasn’t selected, most of the fees would be reimbursed.
Now, a computerized system reduces the work on both ends. USCIS has a lottery and online registration system, and sponsors pay a small fee to register each potential beneficiary. None of the other paperwork is necessary unless the registration is selected in the lottery. This reduces the workload and the need for reimbursing fees, but it also opens many potential fraudsters up to an easier way to breach the system.
This was highly visible in 2023’s lottery when thousands of applicants were entered into the system multiple times. Although each sponsor must sign an attestation under penalty of perjury that they have not worked with or agreed to work with other registrants, petitioners, or other entities in an attempt to skew the odds in their favor, it happens. But with so many of these registrations on file, USCIS is undergoing a federal investigation to revoke H-1B visas and prosecute those involved.
These attempts to “game” the lottery process in various ways are obvious enough to cause millions of people to become fed up. A call for revamping the system is loudly spreading across the world. It’s understood that the H-1B visa is a vital part of the labor force, but applicants want their fair shot at obtaining one.
Current legislation is in the works, but until then, your best chance of getting a successful visa is to work for a cap-exempt employer. If that isn’t possible, you’ll need the help of an experienced legal attorney, like those of us at Visa2US.
With skilled immigration law experts on your side, you’ll stand a better chance of making it through the registration process and getting your petition from start to finish with USCIS. Let us help you navigate this confusing legal process, particularly as it undergoes an overhaul in the future.