Many of the international students and professionals aspiring to work in US are waiting for the start of the upcoming H1B Visa 2020 season to file their petitions with USCIS and check out their luck. We had H1B lottery for the past 6 consecutive years, that’s the state of demand for H1B Visas. In the past, before 6 years, we used to predict, if there would be lottery or not, now it is taken for granted that we would have lottery…Now, the big question is how many petitions and what the overall impact. Since Trump administration took over, we had many H1B program changes with significant impact on the H1B approvals. We will look at various factors, historical data and do predictions for FY 2020 season, and address common FAQs.
We believe that H1B filings for a fiscal year are influenced by major factors as listed below. It is important to quickly review them, so that all of us understand the political, regulatory, macroeconomic and historical trends for predictions.
- H1B Cap Filings History – Data by Year, Trends
- US Economy, Unemployment Rates for current overall Jobs Situation
- F1 Students in US – New Graduates, OPT, STEM OPT Extensions holders
- H4 EAD Holders – Lawsuit, Removal rule, future of EAD.
- Trump Administration H1B Program Changes, Tightened Rules
- Previous Years H1B seekers, who were not picked in Lottery
- Upcoming new H1B registration rule
- Overall H1B Approval, RFE and Denial Trends
You can read the article that talks about all the above factors or watch the short video.
H1B Cap Filings History – Data by Year, Total Filings Trends
If we look at the historical data as plotted in the below graphs for H1B cap reached dates and number of H1B filings by year, it is quite obvious that we would have lottery. We had lottery since FY 2014, that’s a consecutive 6 year streak for H1B lottery ! Also, from the graph on number H1B petitions filings trend, we can see a slight decrease in petitions last year with 190,098 petitions for FY 2019, but it has not dropped much. As per general trends, we can anticipate number of H1B filings around previous years’ range, but it is not just pure mathematical prediction as it involves many regulatory, geo-political and macroeconomic factors. We will review this at the end.
US Economy, Unemployment Rates for current overall Jobs Situation
US Unemployment rate fell to 3.8% in Feb 2019 from 4% in Jan 2019. Compared to last year in Feb 2018, it was 4.1%, so the current unemployment rate is even lower than last year. As you can see in below graph, it is quite obvious the unemployment trend is very likely to hover around the 3.5% to 4% range. Also, the GDP growth rate is 2.6% for last quarter of 2018, compared to last year, it was around 2.3%. Both of these indicate strong growth of US Economy and less unemployment, which means more continued demand for workers and also high skilled workers employed on H1B visas. This will add up the demand for H1Bs filed for FY 2020 season.
F1 Students in US – New Graduates, OPT & STEM OPT Extension holders
The overall growth of international students in US has slowed down and it was a meager 1.5%. Also, the new international students’ enrollment for the first time in US reduced by around 6.6%. But, the overall F1 students on OPT & STEM OPT extension increased to 203,462, which is a 15.8% growth as per OpenDoors Reports. There are anywhere around 40% of F1 students in STEM fields ( see below stats). As per STEM OPT Rules, after 36 months, they need H1B visa to work. So, STEM OPT would expire for about 60,000 students ( 40% of 150,000 from 2015/16 data). Also, there are around 20% of F1 students in non-STEM category, so around 40,000 students (20% of 200,000 from 2017/18). In total, about 100,000 F1 students working on OPT will need H1B Visa to continue working in US. In addition to the 100,000, there are general graduating students this year, planning to apply for H1B visa…Overall, the demand for H1Bs from F1 students continue to rise and we will see more masters petitions filings this year.
H4 EAD Holders – Lawsuit, Removal rule, future of EAD
As you all know certain H4 holders are eligible to work on EAD. But, there has been a lawsuit to remove H4 EAD dragging from Feb 2017. Last year DHS informed court its intent to remove H4 EAD rule and put up a regulation. Currently DHS is going through rule making process for H4 EAD removal and it is predicted to be removed in future at some point, once the rule making processing is fully complete. There was also a bill called H4 Employment protection act to save H4 EAD, but nothing moved since Nov, 2018…With all of these going on, there is a lot of uncertainty on H4 EAD and many of them would like to continue their work authorization, if the EAD rule is removed. The logical way to work for H4 holders is to get H1B visa. So, many of the H4 visa holders would consider applying for H1B this year to have a backup option. This will add up the overall H1B filings for H1B 2020 season.
Trump Administration H1B Program Changes, Tightened Rules
Over the last couple of years Trump Administration has pushed many rules, memos, new policies to tighten H1B visa program, which is in line with their Buy American, Hire American Executive Order to protect American workers. There were many changes like new policy memo for third party worksite for H1Bs, new guidance on Level 1 wage positions, options to report H1B fraud, more site visits, Changes in USCIS website on STEM OPT employment at Third Party site, August 9th unlawful presence memo for F1 students , New NTA Memo to prevent overstays and public safety, etc. including many other H1B Visa Bills that are in house & senate. Overall, all of these policies and memos are to tighten the abuse of H1B program and encourage employers to hire local US workers. These new policies and rules will not encourage many of the MNCs and outsourcing firms to file H1Bs, thus decreasing the filings from such companies for FY 2020 season.
Previous Years H1B seekers, who were not picked in Lottery
Many of the H1B seekers from previous H1B seasons, who were unlucky and did not get picked in lottery may plan to re-test their luck again this year. This is probably is one of the most contributed factors to the H1B filings for FY 2020 season. If you check H1B cap reach dates, petitions count history, we had lottery for the last 6 consecutive years. In total there were about 1,154,598 (total of previous 6 years’ filings = 124,000+172,500+233,000+236,000+199,000+190,098) H1B petitions filed for a total cap quota of 510,000 ( 85,000*6). So, in a nutshell, we have about 644,598 petitions that were not selected in H1B lottery. Even, if 10% of them file this year, that will be about 65,000 additional petitions for FY 2020 season. So, this will have a huge impact on the overall filings this year.
Upcoming New H1B registration rule and New Process from FY 2021.
USCIS published a final rule on New H1B Registration Requirements to change the overall H1B process going forward from FY 2021 for lottery and applications. From that rule, for FY 2020, only the H1B Lottery Order is changed and it will have impact on how many Masters petitions are picked vs regular quota. As the process is changing next year and it requires employers to apply for registration much earlier than April, it could be difficult for employers to wait for over 8 months from offer date. Also, there could be many more registrations in pool due to less barrier for anyone to apply…So, many could try to apply this year to avoid too much of competition in lottery in future. This will add up the demand for the H1B filings this year.
Overall H1B Approval, RFE and Denial Trends
USCIS has published H1B disclosure data that shows that the RFEs issued percentage has increased to about 60% for last quarter of 2018. Also, the H1B approval percent for some of the companies like Cognizant is 68% and Capgemini is 60%, check below graph. Essentially, with approval rate of 60%, it means that for every 100 petitions, 40 are denied by USCIS. That’s a very high denial rate ! The denial rates are very high for MNCs and Outsourcing companies. These stats are very discouraging for all outsourcing companies to apply for H1Bs. This will have an impact on the filings from these kinds of companies.
Above are all the factors that can influence the H1B filings for FY 2020 season…Now, let’s look at predictions.
H1B Lottery 2020 Predictions – How many Petitions ?
In summary, below are the various factors and their high level impact on the filings for this upcoming season.
- H1B Cap Filings History – Data by Year, Trends – Will have Lottery
- US Economy, Unemployment Rates – Excellent, More H1Bs to be Filed – More Demand
- F1 Students in US – New, OPTs, STEM OPTs – Much More H1Bs to be Filed
- H4 EAD Holders – Removal rule, future – More H1Bs to be Filed
- Trump Administration H1B Changes, Rules – Less H1Bs to be Filed by Outsourcing firms
- Previous Years H1B seekers not picked – More H1Bs to be Filed
- Upcoming new H1B registration rule – More H1Bs to be Filed
- H1B Approval, RFE and Denial Trends – Much Less H1Bs to be Filed by Outsourcing firms
Based on the above analysis, it is very clear, we would have lottery for this year. As many new rules, memos are not friendly for outsourcing firms to file H1B petitions, including employing them in third party locations, it will decrease filings from such firms. Nevertheless, there is tremendous amount of demand for H1B visas because the overall economy is doing well with very less unemployment, many F1 students graduating, OPT and STEM OPT extension holders, and many of previously unselected H1B seekers, including H4 holders with uncertainty over future of EAD. Looking at all of these factors, we predict that there may not be a significant drop in the H1B filings this year from previous. There maybe a small dip from the outsourcing companies, but there will be many filings from US Masters students with full time offers from US companies. We expect the predictions for H1B 2020 lottery to be around similar numbers as last year ranging anywhere from 160,000 to 180,000 petitions or more.
Now, lets look at some commonly asked questions around H1B Lottery.
What is H1B 2020 Lottery Process ? New Rule Change in Order ?
The overall H1B process will be same as last year, only the H1B Lottery order will be changed. First there will be lottery to select Regular quota of 65,000 and then unselected US masters quota petitions will be put in a pool and lottery will be done for US masters quota of 20,000. It looks like below. The change in lottery order will result in 16% ( about 5,340 more) more US Masters students to be selected for H1B petition filings. Read more at New H1B Lottery Process, Changes for FY 2020
When is H1B visa 2020 Lottery Date ?
The actual H1B lottery happens after USCIS takes the received packages and does the basic data entry in the system. They receive petitions until April 5th, which is a Friday and usually do lottery next week. It would be during the week of April 10th. In the past, for FY 2019 season, lottery was done on April 11th, for the years before that, it was on April 11th, 12th, 13th…so, the H1B lottery date could be one of these in week of April 10th.
When is H1B 2020 Lottery Results Date ? When will I know if I am selected in Lottery ?
USCIS does not really send out reject notices and rejected packages that were not selected in lottery immediately. They first do processing of the selected petitions, give receipt numbers to them, mail out the receipt notices and finally at the end they send out reject notices and full packages for the unselected H1B petitions. Until you receive a H1B reject notice and package from USCIS you cannot be fully sure regarding your lottery result. For last year, USCIS returned all rejected petitions from July 30th, 2018. For FY 2018, it was on July 19th, 2017…we can expect similar dates of mid-July 2019 for return packages and final H1B lottery decision. It all depends on the overall load of USCIS and petitions received.
What is H1B Visa 2020 Timeline for Overall Process?
Below is a high-level timeline for the H1B visa 2020 season
- H1B 2020 Petitions accepted by USCIS : April 1st to April 5th
- H1B Lottery Date for FY 2020 : Week of April 10th
- H1B Receipts for Selected Petitions : Anywhere after week of April 10th until June 2019.
- H1B Selected Petitions Decisions : Approvals, RFEs, Decisions from April 2019 to end of 2019
- H1B Lottery Final Decision, Rejected Packages : Anytime around mid-July 2019.
H1B 2020 Case Tracker :
Did you submit or plan to submit H1B petition for FY 2020 ? In general, the wait for H1B receipts, lottery results, and processing is quite frustrating without any status until you receive something from USCIS. You would be curious to know others status…so, to have a general view on the statuses movement for entire community, we have put together a tracker along with good graphs for analysis. It is completely anonymous as we do not capture your case number or any personal information. It is community contributed data, the more you add, the better for everyone, including You !
That’s it folks, what is your H1B Prediction ? What is your expected count ? Share your thoughts and numbers…