If you are new to the H1B visa application process, many of you might come across terms like “H1B Lottery” or “H1B Registration Lottery”, which may seem completely new to you. In this article, we will look the details of H1B Registration Lottery and some background on the same. We will cover topics like how H1B lottery works, how is it related to registration, etc.
If you are new to H1B process and and not sure about what is H1B cap, then read What is H1B Visa Cap ? Masters vs Regular Quota ?
What is H1B Visa Lottery ?
When you look at the term lottery, it is very misleading for new people. I have seen questions from users asking, “where should I buy H1B Visa 2021 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.
H1B lottery is a random selection process to select the required number of H1B applicants from a larger pool of applicant to meet the H1B Cap of 65,000 for Regular quota and 20,000 for Masters quota.
USCIS originally called H1B lottery process officially as “computer-generated random selection processes“, which was back in 2007…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.
Why H1B Lottery ? Is it mandatory ?
The H1B Lottery situation arises due to less number of H1B visa slots available (total around 85K) for new applicants. If the demand exceeds the number of H1B slots available for a year, then the H1B Lottery situation arises. If you look at history, we had H1B visa lottery situation for FY 2008 and FY 2009 as there were more petitions received by USCIS. After that, there was no lottery situation for 4 years.
Again the demand for H1B Visas started from FY 2014 and now we had it for previous 8 consecutive years, including current fiscal year. Read History of H1B Cap Reach Dates from 2000 to 2018 for more info. For the most recent fiscal year, USCIS received about 275,000 petitions for FY 2021 and there was lottery as well.
What is USCIS H1B Lottery Process ?
Before H1B FY 2021 Season : In the past, until FY 2020, employers had to submit entire H1B petition package within the first 5 days, starting from April 1st to be considered for the H1B Lottery. For the H1B petitions received, they would tag each petition with a number and use a computer generate random selection to pick the required number of petitions to meet the cap. The data of the physical packages was fed in to the online system and then a lottery or random selection was done. But, this changed from FY 2021 season. Now, it is fully online and USCIS introduced H1B Registration Process. Let’s look at it in detail.
H1B Lottery with Online Registration System
Starting from FY 2021, USCIS introduced H1B Registration Process, where the complete paper based submission process of H1B petitions for lottery selection was removed. Instead of that, they introduced a simple light weight online process to register an applicant, whom they wish to sponsor H1B for the upcoming fiscal year and USCIS will use that details to run the computer generated random selection or lottery to pick the candidates who can file the actual H1B Petition.
In the new H1B registration process, employers would submit basic details of the H1B Applicants in an Online H1B Registration Tool. When registrations are created, there is a long 19 digit number that is generated by the system. That number is used for internal tracking and by USCIS to run the H1B Lottery. The process of running random selection or lottery is fully electronic. You can see the below screenshot of the H1B Registration Selection notice that has the Beneficiary Confirmation Number.
Regular vs Masters Quota H1B Lottery – Order ?
USCIS will pick enough registration to fill the H1B cap, which is about 65,000 for Regular cap and 20,000 for masters cap. The order of H1B Lottery is very critical as it will define the probability of getting selected.
USCIS for previous years before FY 2020, the random selection aka lottery was first run for Masters quota and then 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. To give more priority of US Masters students, USCIS changed the order of lottery starting from FY 2020 season, when they got the Registration Process regulation done. Let’s look at the order of lottery in detail.
Lottery Order with H1B Registration Process
USCIS and DHS went through 9 Steps of Federal rule making process to change the lottery process and published the H1B registration rule. With the new process, first lottery is conducted to select the overall regular cap quota to fill 65,000 petitions. The unselected Masters quota petitions are taken out and then lottery is run to select the US masters quota cap for 20,000 petitions. Below is the full flow chart on how the lottery works.
US Masters Students Advantages with H1B Registration System
USCIS says that individuals with US Masters degrees earn 19.6 percent more than individuals with bachelor’s degree. So, the reversal of lottery selection will ensure higher paid and most skilled ones are working in US on H1Bs. The change in lottery order will result in 16% ( about 5,340 more) more US Masters students to be selected for H1B petition filings. DHS believes that the new rule is merit based as the new lottery order will increased US masters students getting H1Bs.
Let’s summarize the New H1B Registration Process with Lottery for easy understanding.
Complete H1B Registration Process with Lottery Order
Step 1 – Pool of Potential Hires for H1B Sponsoring : Employers interested in sponsoring H1B for individuals they intend to hire, will need to first electronically register the individuals with USCIS during the specified registration period as given by USCIS.
Step 2 -Registration of H1B Applicants : Employers will get at least 14 days ( 20 days in FY 2021 from March 1st, to March 20th) to electronically register the individuals with their company information. They can edit, delete and modify the candidate details until the registration period closes.
Step 3 – H1B Lottery Process : USCIS will conduct computer generated random selection aka Lottery to select regular quota filing registrants, then the masters quota are separated and lottery is run to select the US masters quota filing registrants.
Step 4 – Notify Selected Registrants: USCIS Notifies electronically the selected registrants’ employer/sponsors to file H1B petitions within 90 days. They will time it to fall on April 1st. The unselected registrations are kept on reserve to do another selected as needed.
Step 5 – File H1B Petitions with USCIS: Employers need to file H1B petition using the standard process like before using LCA, Fees and all the information supporting the H1B job offer for the selected registrant.
Step 6 – USCIS Processing : USCIS will adjudicate the petition as per their standard process and inform employers regarding their petition. Below diagram show the same info.
Short Video on the New H1B Registration System and New Lottery Order
Yes. The New H1B Registration process and new lottery order is applicable to the FY 2021 season. There is an electronic process for the registration and you can read H1B Registration Tool, Process with Screenshots.
In the past, if you did 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 . But now, with the new H1B Registration System, you will not get a physical notice of rejection. There will be status change in the registration system that says ‘Not Selected’. You maybe able to generate a notification letter, but it is pretty much of no use as you cannot track it on USCIS website. It is similar to the previous paper notice, just that it is electronic notification.
Yes, USCIS is mandated to conduct H1B Lottery or random selection and they need to have the window open to file for first 5 days. You can check details at USCIS Regulations on H1B Lottery. With the new registration system in place, the concept of paper notices and general lottery is not there anymore and USCIS would conduct the H1B Lottery electronically using their online system, if they receive more petitions within the registration period.
If you are keen on understanding, how the entire H1B Lottery process used to work in the past you can read below.
History of H1B Visa Lottery Process until FY 2019
USCIS followed the below H1B lottery process until FY 2019 season. This concept of lottery or random selection would only be applied, when we had had more petitions than the required for actual cap count as we had a lottery situation for H1B visa 2019 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 2019.
- 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 .
Below is the high level diagram that shows the process until FY 2019 season. You can watch the Video below the chart to understand the H1B Lottery Process Step by Step.
Does that give you a good understanding on the Old and New H1B lottery process ? Did we miss anything ? Add your thoughts in comments.