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 2021, if in lottery situation ?
- How have USCIS done lottery it in the past ?
- What is the proposed Lottery Changes with H1B Registration Rule ?
- What is the New H1B Registration Rule and How does H1B Lottery work here ?
We will address at all these questions in this article.
If you are new and not sure about what is H1B cap, then read What is H1B Visa Cap ? Masters vs Regular Quota ?
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 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. 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 there was no lottery for 4 year. Again it started for FY 2014 and now we had it for previous 7 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 201,011 petitions for FY 2020 and there was lottery as well. If you look at the probability, USCIS received almost 2.36 times the actual cap subject number of about 85,000 numbers (65,000 regular quota + 20,000 Masters quota).
Usually, they tag each petition with a number and use a random selection to pick the required number of petitions to meet the cap. Basically, they pick 65,000 for Regular cap and 20,000 for masters cap quota. In the previous years, 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. All the selected petitions were processed further. Those that were not selected were returned back to the employers with full fee refund.
Now, this has slightly changed since FY 2020, especially the order of the lottery. Let us look at how it worked in the past and then look at current details.
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 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.
What is the New Lottery Order with H1B Registration Rule ?
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. You can read complete details of the H1B Registration Rule, New Process. Since the new registration rule, the lottery order has changed. Below are the key changes to the Lottery Process :
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.
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 2021 Season ?
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.
What happens, if you do not get selected in H1B Lottery ? New Registration System ?
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.
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. 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.
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 ?