What is H1B Visa Lottery Process ? New USCIS Changes from FY 2020

In H1B Visa by KumarUpdated : 281 Comments

If you are new to the H1B visa application process, many of you would have heard about it or maybe wondering about the H1B lottery, with questions like below:

  • What is it ? How would the H1B Visa lottery work ?
  • What is the process of H1B lottery ?
  • What would USCIS do for FY 2020, if in lottery situation  ?
  • How have USCIS done lottery it in the past ?
  • What is the proposed Lottery Changes with H1B Registration Rule ?
  • Will the New Registration Rule and lottery apply for Fy 2020 season ?

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 2020 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 5 years, including current fiscal year. Check out History of H1B Cap Reach Dates from 2000 to 2018 . For the most recent fiscal year, USCIS received about 190,098 applications for H1B FY 202019 quota, and there was lottery as well.  If you look at the probability, USCIS received almost 2.24 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.

Is USCIS Mandated to conduct H1B lottery, if more petitions filed ? What’s the regulation ? 

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 . But, this rule will change with the new H1B Registration Rule that was published on Jan 31st, 2019.

How has the H1B Visa Lottery Process worked until FY 2019 Season? 

USCIS followed the below H1B lottery process until FY 2019 season. This concept of lottery or random selection would work, 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 current year, which is FY 2019 season. You can watch the Video below the chart to understand the H1B Lottery Process Step by Step.

USCIS H1B Visa Lottery Process Diagram

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 

What is the New Lottery Process with H1B Registration Rule that was published in Jan 2019?

USCIS and DHS went through 9 Steps of Federal rule making process to change the lottery process and published the final rule on Jan 31st, 2019. Below are the key changes to the Lottery Process :

  • Overall H1B Registration Process with New 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 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.
  • New Order in  H1B Lottery with Registration System :

    • Change of Order : USCIS is changing the order in which the current H1B petitions are selected in lottery in process described in Step 3 of above new process. In the new H1B registration rule, to select the registrants, first lottery is conducted to select the overall regular cap quota to fill 65,000 petitions and then lottery is run to select the US masters quota cap for 20,000 petitions. Below is the full flow chart and video of the same.
    • 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.H1B Visa Registration Rule Lottery Order and Process Diagram Flow

Short Video on the New H1B Registration System and New Lottery Order 

Is the New H1B Registration Rule and Lottery System applicable for H1B Visa 2020 Season ?

Not fully. USCIS is suspending H1B Registration Rule for H1B FY 2020 cap season to design, implement and complete user testing of system and make sure the system is ready. USCIS will formally announce this suspension for FY 2020 on their website.  So, for the upcoming H1B Visa FY 2020 season , the current process of accepting H1B Petitions for 5 business days and then conducting lottery from the received petitions will be used as we have described in the first part of the article. But, one change to the current process will be done, which is the order of the H1B lottery will be changed, where first regular quota petitions are selected in lottery to fulfil 65,000 petitions cap from entire pool of applications and then master quota petitions are selected in lottery order to fulfil the masters quota cap of 20,000.  Read more about New Lottery Process for H1B Visa 2020 Season – FAQs for full info on the upcoming season.

Does that give you a good understanding on the Old and New H1B lottery process  ? What do you think of new Change in Lottery order ? Did I miss anything ? Any comments to add ? Questions ?


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Comments ( 281 )

  1. casmopoly

    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!

  2. Swetha

    Hi ,

    I am currently working on F1 CPT and my husband want to apply H4 premium as I am eligible to get H4 EAD. My CPT is valid until sep 30 , if my H4 is approved in between .Should I stop working or can I work until sep 30?

    Saurabh or anyone , please let me know your comments.

    1. administrator


      You will have to apply for COS from F-1 to H-4 along w/ EAD. Once COS is approved, you will be considered on H-4 status from the effective date mentioned in received approval notice. You have to stop maintaining F-1 status from that date, and start maintaining H-4 status.

      This date can very well be prior to Sep 30.

      1. Swetha

        Thank you for your reply.

        After I get the H4 EAD , after applying the COS,if COS is still in process and my CPT is not expired than can I work under CPT?

        1. administrator


          You need to apply for COS in order to get H-4. So you have to file I-539 for H-4 COS and I-765 for H-4 EAD. This will be processed in parallel and will be approved/denied together. Once they are approved, your status will become H-4 and you need to stop studying on F-1. You can continue to work using your H-4 EAD at this point.

          Makes sense?

  3. uday

    Quick Question:
    When does USCIS will start lottery?
    a. After getting maximum application with in first five days of April?
    b. Or when it reach it’s maximum limit of 85k (20k + 65), irrespective of how many application they got in first 5 days?

  4. Jay


    If i get through lottery & gets rejected at Consulate . Can my H1b Lottery result still holds good for the next year with the same company or do i again need to go though the lottery again for the next year.

    1. Helper for People

      No- Accepet petition is not guarantee to enter in USA, you can enter USA until you have a valid working visa.

      This will be not valid for next year, if they rejected you, it means you did some faulty thing and how faulty thing can allow for next year.

      They will give chance to you before reject to submit any document on which they have doubt.


    2. Rao VVRSN

      Unless you clear the RFE you will not get proper visa from USCIS. If you clear the RFE immediately they will take your passort for Visa stamping. that’s final. rfe’s are different in nature. For ex. Proper PO required from client along with filing you h1. They may ask your emloyers proper details like their office pics 7 their size of emplyees & their annual turnover details.

  5. Priyanka

    Hi All,

    USCIS conduct their verification on education and employment before lottery or after lottery? Can you please respond as soon as possible

    1. administrator


      They would do that only after the lottery has been conducted. This way it needs to happen for only 85K petitions and not 200K petitions.

      Think about it – When they return the entire fees for non-selected petitions, why would they spent time and effort in doing document verification for them.

  6. Waqar

    I am on b1/b2 visa and my ist entry is till 15 May 2016 so can I apply for h1 visa.i got my m.phil in agriculture economics from Pakistan and mba from uk.anyone can help me regarding this?

    1. administrator


      An employer can file H-1B for you (you don’t apply for H-1, an employer does). Few things that may go wrong or delay your H-1 petition:

      – USCIS will have to determine if you entered US on B-1/2 only so that you can apply for H-1 (which is a misuse). If they feel that you misused B-1 then it could hamper H-1 petition

      – You are from Pakistan and that could cause the petition to get stuck in security check (unfortunately). This could delay the processing and may sound disadvantageous to potential employer

  7. Sekhar

    I’m currently on L1B visa and working for Indian MNC in USA. My company told me that they have filed, H1B visa and it’s not got selected in lottery.

    Now, how can I make sure whether they have really applier or not? Bcoz I heard some rumors about my company process.

    When I ask for receipt number, they are telling.. they haven’t received any receipt number bcoz it’s not selected in lottery.

    Can someone help me to understand the process?

    1. H1BHopeful

      Ask for lottery rejection notice. All petitions that were filed for H1B 2015 and that were subject to the cap, will receive a rejection letter that states that petition was unselected.

  8. RedSun

    My Employer still says my H1 lottery result is pending with USCIS .
    Can there be any more hopes ?? as this August Already !! any one still on the same boat ??

    1. Gopinath

      could any one suggest on this status, still my status shows as below:-

      On April 13, 2015, we received your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Receipt Number EAC1514251***, and sent you the receipt notice that describes how we will process your case. Please follow the instructions in the notice. If you do not receive your receipt notice by May 13, 2015, please call Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283. If you move, go to uscis.gov/addresschange to give us your new mailing address.

  9. imran

    Hi Everyone,

    I have applied for h1 and i have USCIS number ( when i am trying to search status the following message appears can you please help me to understand what is next?

    On April 13, 2015, we received your Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Receipt Number EAC1514354564, and sent you the receipt notice that describes how we will process your case. Please follow the instructions in the notice. If you do not receive your receipt notice by May 13, 2015, please call Customer Service at 1-800-375-5283. If you move, go to uscis.gov/addresschange to give us your new mailing address.

    Looking forward for your response.


  10. Rupesh Dasari

    Hi ,

    Is the H1B lottery selection process completed ? Because still we did not receive the documents from USCIS. When do I come to know I am selected or not?

    Rupesh Dasari

  11. Sridevi


    My attorney in the USA has applied for H1B and got the info 1mth ago that my fee cheque has been cleared, still i didnt receive the receipt number. Does this mean that ive got selected in the lottery and waiting for receipt# or have i not got selected? pls advice.


  12. Monee

    Hi., my husband applied for H1B he waited til last list which selected 7 numbers.. But he didnt..
    Is there any opportunity further to select from the rejected numbers…

    Moneesha gnanam

  13. jason

    My application has been selected in lottery and got the information a month back. But they have not shared any details of it apart from this information. So can you please tell me can I if my company doesn’t send me to US can I apply to US jobs on my own. They normally ask Visa ready person. But will they consider me?
    And till when this lottery be valid?

  14. STN

    This is what i heard from my consultant today 5/26.
    How to check whether consultant filled my H1 or not ?


    Unfortunately, it does not appear that your H1 was selected in lottery. We determine that by the fact that checks issued for filing fees are not cleared in bank, and so that would indicate at this late date that it did not make the selection process.

    Sorry to give a bad news.

  15. Lakshmanan Ganesan

    Does any one know that H1B lottery is completed and result has been shared to all those who got selected, or still there are some slots open


  16. Amit

    Hi All,
    I have few queries,written below.
    1.Does Random selection(lottery) happen in one slot?
    2.My employer said me that they are getting result in partial and still some hope to get the lottery selction which actually make me confused.

    Anyone pls help me out wheather should i keep still some hope or for this year nothing can happen.

  17. raw1

    Hi my sis got picked up in this lottery…but now she already have been selected in another job paying her double the package shes earning now. She is confused what to do? if she joins other company in 2-3 months from now will she loose her h1b ?

  18. Balaji

    Last week my employer told that my application got picked up in lottery(cheque got en-cashed) . But now they told that there was some mistake in filing the H1B petition that the cheques got exchanged with another person whom they filed and the cheque which is encashed is not against for my application and now i have to wait for some more time to know my application in lottery result.

    Can some one let me know the process of lottery more in detail?

  19. DK

    Hi All, I have received EAC# which says my case is received on 13 Apr, and at the same time I checked another EAC# next to mine, which has different status “case is approved”. So now I have doubt whether my case is declined as they case is approved for next EAC # . Any one knows how this selection happens is it serially etc..

  20. rocky

    Hi Guys. I have heard from my Employer that my H1 is picked. I got a receipt number but i have an issue. I need to apply for H1 in regular quota rather than Advanced Degree as my University is a profit organization. My employer does not know how the lawyer applied it. I am trying to contact the lawyer but could not come in contact now. Does my receipt tell me under which quota my H1B has been picked. Any help will be appreciated.
    Thank you.

  21. ravi

    I have received WAC number last week, I am wondering what is the next step by USCIS and also in the above blog(How would the lottery work).-What step am I in (step 7??)? Thank you.

  22. Ravikumar

    I read a news about lottery for 2016 cap happened on 13th Apr 2015. Could somebody help me knowing, when is the possible date to know the status whether my case is selected for lottery or not?

  23. shiv

    USCIS website it says that yesterday the 13th of April they’ve done the random selection. How soon will be able to find out if your application was selected or not?

  24. Marian

    I have a question! I’m out of States and I’ve applied for the H1b 2016 lottery visa. If you go on the USCIS website it says that yesterday the 13th of April they’ve done the random selection. How soon will be able to find out if your application was selected or not? If you’ve applied through an attorney, are they the first ones to find out if the applicant was selected or not? Thank you!

  25. Lucky

    Guys, there is same chance of winning a lottery than getting selected on H1B selection. I recommend buy a lottery ticket every time you reply. YOU get SELECTED you might WIN lottery money sometime..LOL. So you have a job with money already!

  26. Chandu

    How do we know in first place that my application has been sent to USCIS. I believe EAC/WAC comes only after it gets picked in the lottery. But is there any way that one can come to know that an employer has actually filed a petition?

    1. balaji

      Unfortunately, there is no way we can know that! Trust your employer with all your heart!!
      He should be giving your WAC as soon as the lottery picks your application.

  27. Zack

    I am completing my masters in April, If i apply for H1 can i stay back till i get a decision?
    P.S – I’m not eligible for OPT.

    1. John

      You cannot be here once your status expired. However, you can apply for H1B. You need to leave US while waiting. The best solution is to enroll new degree to keep your status.

    1. administrator

      Monu, it does not work on a company basis and there is no priority given for companies, it is just the regular vs masters quota for conducting lottery.

      1. monu

        Means if big companies are filing thousands of H1 application and a small company is filing few then big company has more opportunity to get H1 because they has more probability to get select.

      1. Raj

        Hi Raj,

        I had a small query can an applicant file multiple H1 B applications from different companies .If so if the applications are getting picked up is there any risk during stamping? Please let me know

  28. Arian

    Is there still any chance to be selected ? My lawyer says there’s no chance but they haven’t heard anything from the USCIS yet ! Please help ! I lost my hope 2 months ago but sometimes I hear that people say there’s still a chance !

  29. Vijay Gunasekaran


    Is there anything like “Waiting list” after the lottery process. i.e if an application is rejected after selected in the lottery, will they select any applications which will not select lottery for further processing. 65,000 is number of visas or number of applications?
    Please clarify me.

    Thanks & Regards

  30. Bsu

    my employer told on may 9th that my application was selected in lottery but they have not received the receipt number yet.>Till now I didn’t get any update on receipt number or on rejection…is it really possible for employer to get notification on the lottery results alone without receipt number? Any information on similar case would really be helpful….

  31. dipanshumansingka

    if the lottery is randomly selected from the submitted forms then probability for first lottery selected is 65000 / (172500 – 20000) and for the last lottery selected is 1 / (172500 – 20000 – 64999)

  32. Jenn

    Today April 16,2014. I have been chosen in the H1B visa lottery. USCIS will now be reviewing the merits of my application. In approximately two weeks, I will receive the final decision. I am a Canadian Citizen, My B2 expires in June 6th, 2014. I was told that I should leave before June 6th and remain in Canada until I receive my H-1B (October). My question is once I have received the final decision from USCIS in approx two weeks will I be able to start working right away? If not, when should I return to Canada and for how long should I stay there? When will I be able to work in USA?



    1. administrator

      Like Joon said, you can enter at most 10 days prior to H-1 start date (which is Oct 1). Also, you will have to return after getting your H-1 visa stamped and need to leave before your current I-94 expiration date. Do not stay too long on B-1 or you may be asked during interview about your US trip’s long stay.

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