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. This article covers everything you need to know about H1B Registration Lottery like its background, how the H1B lottery works, how is it related to registration, and common FAQs.
H1B 2024 Lottery Results are released. Users are getting notified on the same. Check H1B Visa 2024 Registration Selection Results are out, Sample for full details
If you are new to the H1B process and not sure about what is H1B cap is, then read What is H1B Visa Cap? Masters vs Regular Quota?
What is H1B Visa Lottery? Random Selection?
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 2024 lottery ticket? I want to get H1B…” Firstly, there is nothing like buying a lottery ticket for an H1B visa. You cannot buy any H1B lottery ticket. It is just the terminology that is used to indicate the “random selection” process used by USCIS.
The H1B lottery is nothing but a “random selection process” used to select the required number of H1B applicants from a larger pool of applicants. The lottery selection is done to select enough applicants to meet the H1B Cap of 65,000 for the Regular quota and 20,000 for the master’s quota.
Origin of term H1B Lottery: USCIS originally called the H1B lottery process officially “computer-generated random selection processes”, which was back in 2007…as time progressed and people have started to embrace the colloquial word called “Lottery” for the same…You can see that USCIS has 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 Visa Lottery? Is it mandatory to have a Lottery?
The H1B Lottery situation arises due to the availability of a fixed number of H1B visa slots (total of around 85K) per year for new applicants. If there are more than 85,000 applicants applying for H1B in a year, then the H1B Lottery situation arises.
If you look at history, we had the H1B visa lottery situation for Fiscal Year(FY) 2008 and FY 2009 as there were more petitions received by USCIS. After that, there was no lottery situation for the next 4 fiscal years. Again the demand for H1B Visas increased in FY 2014, leading to the lottery. Since then, we had the H1B lottery for the past consecutive 10 years, including the previous fiscal year 2023.
Read History of H1B Cap Reach Dates from 2000 to 2022 for more info. For the most recent fiscal year, USCIS received about 483,927 petitions for FY 2023. There was no second round lottery for FY 2023, but before that for FY 2022, they had three rounds of the lottery.
H1B Lottery Process before Online Registration System
In the past, until FY 2020 season ( that ended in April 2019), employers had to submit the 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-generated random selection to pick the required number of petitions to meet the cap.
The H1B applicant information from the physical H1B packages was fed into the USCIS online system and then a lottery or random selection was done. This changed in FY 2021 season with the introduction of the Online Registration System. Let’s look at that online registration process in detail next section.
News: H1B FY 2024 Season Started on March 1st, 2023, and ends on March 17th, 2023. Check article H1B Visa FY 2024 Dates and Results Timeline
H1B Lottery Process with Online Registration System
Starting from H1B Fiscal Year 2021 (March 2020), USCIS introduced the Online 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 lightweight online process to register an applicant, whom they wish to sponsor H1B for the upcoming fiscal year. USCIS will use that details to run the computer-generated random selection or lottery to pick the candidates who can submit the actual H1B Petition with USCIS.
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 called a “Beneficiary Confirmation Number“. That number is used for internal tracking and by USCIS to run the H1B Lottery. It cannot be used to check the status of the H1B registration online. The process of running a 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.
H1B Lottery Process for FY 2025 Season
The H1B Lottery process for H1B Visa 2025 Season is changing. USCIS Published a final rule indicating that the new H1B Lottery Selection will be based on beneficiary instead of the H1B registration.
As part of the new process, applicants are required to submit their Passport or Travel Document information. It will be used to run the H1B Lottery. Even, if the H1B applicant has multiple offers and submits multiple registrations, they will be treated as one based on the unique passport or travel document number and will be counted in the lottery only once. You can read full details at the Summary of New H1B Lottery Process from FY 2025.
The below diagram explains how the H1B Lottery would work for FY 2025 season
H1B Lottery based on Wage Levels Not Applicable for FY 2025 Season: DHS published a final rule in January 2021 stating that they would conduct the H1B Lottery based on H1B Wage Levels. But, a court case was filed in October 2020 challenging this rule, and eventually, in September 2021, the court canceled the H1B Lottery based on the Wage Levels Rule. USCIS Officially withdrew the rule from Federal Register in December 2021.
H1B Lottery Order: Regular vs Masters Quota
USCIS will select enough registrations to fill the total annual H1B cap, which is about 65,000 for the Regular cap and 20,000 for the US Master’s cap. The order of the H1B Lottery is very critical as it will define the probability of getting selected.
H1B Lottery Order with H1B Registration Process for FY 2025
DHS went through the 9 Steps of the Federal rule-making process and published the H1B registration rule that included the change in the H1B lottery process a few years ago, where the order of the lottery changed.
Below is the current process for how the H1B lottery selection is run, including the order of selections starting from the FY 2020 season (March 2019):
- Step 1: The first lottery selection is conducted on the entire pool of H1B registrations to select the required number of registrations to fill the regular quota cap of 65,000.
- Step 2: The unselected US Masters’ quota registrations from that entire pool are taken out and then a lottery is run again on them to select the required number of registrations to fill the US masters’ quota cap of 20,000.
- Step 3: The selected H1B registrations from both the regular quota and master’s quota cap are notified so that they can file the H1B petitions with USCIS.
- Step 4: The unselected H1B applicants from both Step 1 and Step 2 are placed in a reserve pool to conduct the second-round or third-round lottery as needed if applicants selected in the first round do not file enough petitions to meet the annual cap of 85,000.
H1B Visa 2024 Tracker: To help the community, we have partnered with VisaGrader to build an Anonymous H1B Visa Tracker for FY 2024. Use H1B Visa 2024 Tracker to add your case for community benefit and your benefit.
Below is the full flow chart on how the lottery works.
In the past, before FY 2020, the lottery order was different. You can read the below to get an understanding of the same for some perspective on why the order got changed.
Previous H1B Lottery Order before FY 2020:
- In the past, before FY 2020, the random selection aka H1B lottery was first conducted for the Master’s quota and then the unselected petitions from the master’s quota were put down in the general quota pool and a random selection algorithm was run for the general quota cap.
- Starting from H1B FY 2020 Season (March 2019), to give more priority to US Masters students, USCIS changed the order of the lottery, when they got the H1b Registration Process regulation implemented. Let’s look at the order of the lottery in detail.
US Masters Students Advantages with H1B Registration System
USCIS says that individuals with US master’ degrees earn 19.6 percent more than individuals with bachelor’s degrees. So, the reversal of lottery selection will ensure that higher-paid and most skilled ones are working in the US on H1Bs.
The change in lottery order will result in 16% ( about 5,340 more) more US Masters students being selected for H1B petition filings. DHS believes that the new rule is merit-based as the new lottery order will increase US masters students getting H1Bs.
Let’s summarize the current H1B Registration Process with Lottery for easy understanding.
If you are applying for H1B 2024, read the analysis: H1B Visa 2024 Lottery Predictions, Analysis – How Many?
Step by Step 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 ( 17 days for FY 2024 from March 1st, to March 17th ) 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 registrations are separated and the 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 selection as needed.
- Step 5 – File H1B Petitions with USCIS: Employers need to file H1B petitions 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. The below diagram shows the same info.
Yes. The H1B Registration process, including the H1B Lottery process, are applicable for FY 2025 season. However, the lottery selection process is changing from FY 2025 season. There H1B registration process is electronic, you can read H1B Registration Tool, Process with Screenshots.
In the past, if you did not get selected in H1B Lottery, you used to get a physical rejection letter and the filing fee was returned to the employer. Check out Sample H1B Rejection Letters – NOT Picked in Lottery. But now, with the Electronic H1B Registration System, you will not get a physical notice of rejection. There will be a status change in the registration system that says ‘Not Selected’. It would be shown as ‘Submitted’ status until USCIS confirms that they have enough registrations for the current fiscal year and eventually the status changes to ‘Not Selected’.
Yes, USCIS is mandated to conduct H1B Lottery or random selection. Before the electronic registration system, they were also mandated to have the filing window open to file for the 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 registrations 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. The below information is only for reference and is not applicable for the current H1B season.
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 more petitions than the required for actual cap count as we had a lottery situation for the H1B visa 2019 quota. The process has been pretty much similar since its inception by USCIS in 2007.
- Step 1: The first step that USCIS would do as soon as it receives an H1B petition is to label and identify each of the petitions with a unique identifier. This is the number that would be used for the random selection algorithm. Once it is labeled, they will group the overall petitions into two sets, one as the master’s quota and one as the regular quota.
- Step 2: If there are more than 20,000 petitions received for the masters’ quota, they would run a computer-generated random selection process, which is called the 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 the master’s quota, that did NOT get selected in the lottery or random selection are placed or combined with all the pool of petitions that received regular quota H1B petitions.
- Step 4: If the total number of petitions in the combined pool is 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 petition numbers to the service centers. The USCIS service centers will proceed with the next-level H1B Visa processing for adjudication of the selected petitions.
- Step 6: All the petitions that were not selected in the random selection process or lottery will be returned to their respective parties either attorneys or employers directly along with the Fee. If there were duplicate filings for the same employee by an employer, no fee will be returned. More info is below on this step.
- Step 7: USCIS will inform all the selected petition holders with their case numbers for tracking purposes during processing. It will be an EAC number. Read more on the H1B Visa Case Numbering Info.
Below is a 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 of the previous and current H1B lottery process? Did we miss anything? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.