What is H1B Visa Lottery Process ? What has USCIS Done that in past ?

In Apply H1B Visa by Kumar240 Comments

Many of you would be a wondering about the H1B lottery. I see lot of questions around lottery.

  • How would the H1B Visa lottery work ?
  • What is the process of lottery ?
  • What would USCIS do for FY 2017, as we are in lottery situation  ?
  • How have USCIS done lottery it in the past ?

Let me take some time to address some of these questions. We have another article that has clarifications on the same : All About H1B Visa Caps and Lottery.

What is H1B Visa Lottery ?  Do you have to buy a H1B lottery ticket? Process ?

When you look at the term lottery, it is very misleading for new people. I had seen questions from users asking, “where should I buy H1B Visa 2017 lottery ticket ? I want to get H1B…”   Firstly, let me clarify, there is nothing like buying a lottery ticket for H1B visa. You cannot buy any H1B lottery ticket.  It is just the terminology that is used. It was officially called as “computer-generated random selection processes”  by USCIS in 2007 for FY 2008…as time progressed and people have started to embrace colloquial word called “Lottery” for the same…You can see that USCIS have embraced the same and say “computer-generated process, also known as the lottery“, in recent years, including this year’s, press release as it is easily understood and many can relate to it.

How has USCIS done Random Selection or H1B Lottery in the past ? What is the exact process ?

Historically, we had H1B visa lottery for FY 2008, FY 2009, and recently in last few years, including last year. USCIS received about 233,000 applications for H1B FY 2016 quota, and there was lottery as well.  If you look at the probability, USCIS received almost 2.7 times the actual cap subject number of about 85,000 numbers (65,000 regular quota  + 20,000 Masters quota).  They tagged each petition with a number and used that to run the random algorithm.  The random selection aka lottery was first run for Masters quota and the petitions that were not selected in masters quota, were put down in the general quota pool and random algorithm was run on the same for general quota cap.  All the selected petitions were processed.

How would H1B Visa Lottery Process work? How about for FY 2017 ?

Let me elaborate more on how the concept of random selection would work as we have more petitions than the required for actual cap count and we have a lottery situation for  H1B visa 2017  quota.  The process has been pretty much similar since its inception by USCIS  since 2007.

  • Step 1 : First step  that USCIS would do as soon as it receives a H1B petition is to label and identify each of the petitions with a unique identifier. This is the number that would be used for random selection algorithm.  Once it is labeled, they will group the overall petitions into two sets, one as masters quota and one as regular quota.
  • Step 2 :  If there are more than 20,000 petitions received for masters quota, they would run a computer generated random selection process, which is called H1B lottery, across all the masters petitions pool to pick the 20,000 petitions that would meet the cap for Masters quota for FY 2017.
  • Step 3 :  All the H1B petitions filed under master’s quota, that did NOT get selected in the lottery or random selection are placed or combined with all the pool of petitions received regular quota H1B petitions.
  • Step 4 :  If the total number of petitions in the combined pool are over 65,000 petitions, which is the cap limit, a computer generated random selection process is run on the pool to identify the petitions that will qualify for the regular quota cap limit.
  • Step 5 :  USCIS will send the list of all selected petitions numbers to the service centers. The USCIS service centers will proceed with next level H1B Visa processing for adjudication of the selected petitions.
  • Step 6 : All the petitions that were not selected in random selection process or lottery will be returned to their respective parties either attorneys or the employers directly along with the Fee. If there were duplicate filings for a same employee by an employer, no fee will be returned. More info below on this step.
  • Step 7 : USCIS will inform all the selected petition holders with their case number for tracking purposes during processing. It will be an EAC number. Read more on the H1B Visa EAC Numbering Info 

What happens, if you do not get selected in H1B Lottery ? 

If you do NOT get selected in Lottery, you would get a rejection letter and the filing fee is returned to the employer. Check out Sample H1B Rejection Letters – NOT Picked in Lottery 

Does that give you a good understanding on the H1B lottery process  ?

Are you looking for H1B FY 2017 Lottery Predictions ?
We have written a detail analysis and our predictions, you can check out H1B Visa 2017 Lottery Predictions, USCIS Data Trends

Did I miss anything ? Any comments to add ? Questions ?

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Comments ( 240 )

  1. prem

    My employer said to me my case was picked up in lottery on 27th april 2016.still 3 weeks passed Till now i didnot get any EAC number. How many day i want to wait to get EAC number.i am in confusion can u plz give clarification to me.thank you

  2. Shekar

    Hi All,

    I got the below status message online, while tracking using my EAC receipt number:

    Case Was Transferred And A New Office Has Jurisdiction
    On May 18, 2016, we transferred your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Receipt Number EAC16XXXXXXX, to another USCIS office. That office now has jurisdiction over your case. We sent you a notice that explains why we moved your case. Please follow the instructions in the notice. If you do not receive your notice by June 17, 2016, please go to www.uscis.gov/e-request to request a copy of the notice. If you move, go to www.uscis.gov/addresschange to give us your new mailing address.

    what it meane, Is it my petition picked in Lottery? Plz reply me….

    1. Helper !


      This year some of USCIS service center heavily loaded with work, so they did take decision to transfer some cases to another service center.

      As per your receipt number, your case was in process at Vermont center which is heavily loaded as it always so they transferred your case to California Center..

      Its all related to this only..


  3. Dinesh


    My application got thru the lottery process. But during this 4 months, my client got changed. Can it be a reason for further denial of application?

    Also, can I transfer this accepted lottery application to some other firm?

  4. Bhuvan

    Hi Saurabh,

    My employer applied H1 B & I am waiting for the status. Came to know that from my company around 35% H1’s got picked up in the lottery process and rest of the people status is “yet to be receieved”. Also I was said that this selected list is as of May 17th. Should I consider that my case has not gone through lottery or is there any hope still left to wait & see.

    1. administrator


      If the employer has no indication that you have made through the lottery yet, then chances are that you didn’t go through. I don’t think there is much hope now unless you are relying on outlier cases (delayed shipping, lost in transit etc).

  5. Srinivas

    I got Receipt number from my employer but when I search in USCIS case status is showing as below :
    •My Case Status does not recognize the receipt number entered. Please check your receipt number and try again. If you need further assistance, please call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283

    Please let me know if we get Receipt number whether it made through the lottery and when do we receive above message.

    1. administrator


      Receipt number => Selected in lottery.

      The error could be a technical issue on USCIS side. Wait for few days and retry, or ask employer to follow-up w/ USCIS.

  6. naveenkyr

    Hi Saurabh,
    I have applied H1B through the attorneys and one of the employers who is providing me job. Going through the comments in this blog I see that by this time I should get an update on my selection (Yes or NO).
    Is my prediction correct ? or I need wait till my attorney will receive an update from USCIS on application?
    Even I did not receive any update from my attorney on the acknowledgement of my application.

    Other’s also can update on my query if you have an idea.


    1. administrator


      Only selected petitions have been notified until now. Rejection notices will start coming in soon, but I haven’t heard of anyone receiving the same yet.

      However, if your attorney hasn’t received receipt notice by end of this week, there is a good possibility that you didn’t make through the lottery.

    2. Unlucky

      I just have a query. If we submit the resignation with current employer , would the employer can reject the receipt number received by attorney or assign to some one else (suppose if any luck on the coming days)

  7. DNK

    Hi Saurabh,

    Just got a mail from my employer saying the following ::

    “We have pleasure in informing you that your H1B application has been picked up in lottery
    Now the application will be taken for processing. It usually takes around 3 to 4 months for the process
    Once its approved, we will let you know.”

    Just wanted to check now my H1B visa stamping will be done for sure OR there is any other hurdle ?

    1. administrator


      You have been selected in the lottery. This petition needs to be approved now. Go to USCIS site and enter your receipt number and subscribe for updates. USCIS will either approve it, or issue RFE asking for additional information/documents. In the end, it will either be approved or denied.

      After that, you can appear for visa stamping which will either be approved or put on hold through 221g. This 221g would eventually result in approval or denial.

      Still a long way to go 🙂

  8. Crem

    Hi Saurabh,
    I applied for H1B through two different employers. Both went through the lottery process. If both petitions are approved then can I choose any one employer and go for visa stamping? Will it create any problem to have two approved petitions from different employers? If I choose one employer and stamped then what happens to the other petition? Will it be active or withdrawn?

    1. administrator


      If both get approved, you can pick the better one and go for stamping through them. I don’t remember instances when person was grilled during visa stamping for multiple filings. Although, USCIS can question multiple filing if they feel the 2 employers conspired to file it together etc.

  9. Soham

    So my name got picked in the lottery on April 11 (Premium processing) so when can i expect USCIS to give me a result on my case ?

  10. John

    I’m non-advanced degree and filed under Premium Processing. I currently get the following message on the USCIS website: Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed. On May 6, 2016, we received your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Receipt Number EACXXXXXXX, and emailed you a receipt notice. It is being processed at our Vermont Service Center location. The notice describes how we will process your case.

    Does this mean I was picked in the lottery? I’m confused. Thanks!

    1. administrator


      Yes, you made through the lottery. Keep following the status online to track the progress.

      1. Prathamesh


        This case is going for premium processing or regular processing. Because even I have received the same notification.

  11. H1b

    I m checking status against my LCA on myvisajobs.com
    and its showing that LCA is certified, what does this means?
    IS it picked in the lottery? or not?
    how do i know if it is picked or not? can i track anywhere with help of LCA number
    please guide

    1. administrator


      All LCAs get certified. So looking up LCA doesn’t give any information about selection/rejection in lottery.

  12. Jayasree S

    My employer did my H1B FY 2017 ,but i do not have any update whether my petition has been picked in the random selection process or not. When I contacted him, he said he has no update and is waiting for more receipts. Does that mean my petition has been picked up and is waiting for the EAC #. I believe if at all my petition is not picked up in the lottery, they should have an update by now. Am I right ?

    Can someone please let me know .

    1. administrator

      Jayasree S,

      If selected, employer will receive the receipt number. It is quite possible that they still don’t know about your results. People who didn’t make through lottery are usually notified in June-July (based on historical data).

      1. Jayasree S

        Thanks Saurabh. When I asked my employer about the possibility of my petition to be picked .. I was told that it’s 80% doubtful that my h1b is picked in the lottery . How would he be so sure abt that? Do we have any deadline for receiving the receipts ? When I enquired abt the unpicked ones he told me that he received none so far..
        His statement indeed is quite disappointing ..

        What do you think?

        1. administrator

          Jayasree S,

          Maybe that number is just his gut feeling. No one can give exact probability. USCIS has finished data entry of petitions, and all petitions should be received by next week. There may still be some outliers, but most of them will be received on time.

          Rejection letters will go out anytime now and continue to flow through June/July.

          1. Jayasree S

            Hi Saurabh
            Just got to know from my employer that my petition got picked in the lottery. Felt a great relief . I just hope my petition gets approved…

  13. Sathvika

    I applied for 3 H1b s this year from different employers as this is the last chance for me.I came to know that one of them is picked in the lottery so ,I dont have any update about the rest 2 . So,now can I drop the remaining 2 applications without knowing their status.What is the process ..please let me know

  14. Rikesh

    My employer did premium application and I just received my H1-B Receipt Number (WAC#). Does this mean my petition got selected in lottery? If yes, when do I expect if my application for H1-B got selected or rejected?

    1. Shreyas

      That’s right. Your application got picked in the lottery.

      I remember asking this to my attorney – ‘Thanks for the note. Pardon my ignorance but does this mean, my application was chosen out of the 65k lot to process the H1-B for this year?’

      Response from the attorney – You are correct. The receipt of this notice confirms that H-1B petition on your behalf was chosen in the lottery to be processed. It can take 2-4 months for the case to be processed by the USCIS. You do not need to expect additional notices and no other action is required on your part. Once we receive an update from the USCIS regarding your case we will inform you immediately.

      Hope this helps

  15. casmopoly

    not sure why the post has been deleted

    I got an update from law firm immigrationgirl
    Much to my surprise, we have received our first 40 email notifications from the Vermont Service Center for H-1B petitions filed in the lottery. These were filed in the Advanced Degree (masters cap). Received date on the email is April 11th. The first emails came in at 7:55 pm last night.

    I cannot find any announcement form USCIS that the lottery was conducted or how many petitions were filed. This is out of the ordinary.

    We have also received our first notification from California Service Center at 11:13 this morning!

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