The H-1B visa program is a very popular way for U.S. companies to meet their needs for highly-trained employees with qualified international candidates. We have written extensively about this visa classification and encourage you to read some of our other blogs for more details.
In this blog, we will focus on the H-1B visa registration lottery:
- How to find your selection results;
- What to do next if you were selected;
- What it means if you were not selected.
The FY2024 H1-B Visa Lottery
For most job categories, the U.S. Congress has set an annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas, including 20,000 reserved for applicants with a master’s degree or higher. However, the popularity of the H-1B program usually results in many more applications per year than that cap limit. To manage this, the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) established a random lottery system to cull out a portion of the overall pool of applications, which are then further adjudicated to be either fully approved or denied.
Registering for this lottery is a simple process, and is the responsibility of the potential employer (also called the “petitioner”):
- Create an account on the USCIS website;
- Complete one electronic registration form for each individual beneficiary. This form requests only basic information about the petitioner’s company, the job being offered, and the beneficiary;
- Submit each form with its $10 fee.
H-1B visa registrations must be submitted within a particular date window. That registration window opened March 1 and closed on March 20, 2023 for the next round of H1-B visas to be issued (fiscal year 2024).
The lottery itself begins once the registration window closes. It is entirely computer driven, first verifying the validity of each registration, and then randomly selecting the number of registrations needed to fill the cap limit.
(Note: the number of registrations selected at this stage is larger than the cap itself, and is calculated based on historical data of how many selected beneficiaries do not follow through with their applications or are later denied.)
How to check your H-1B lottery results.
USCIS reported that they intended to give result notifications for the fiscal year 2024 lottery, which just took place, by March 31. This notification would be posted on the petitioner’s online USCIS account. If you are the beneficiary, you will need to ask your petitioner to access that information and pass the news along to you.
My H-1B lottery registration says “Selected.” What next?
Congratulations! Your registration survived the lottery, and you may now proceed with the process of obtaining your H-1B visa!
The next step is still the responsibility of the petitioner. Within 90 days of selection (before June 30, 2023), they must file with USCIS the following documentation:
- A copy of the Form I-797C: Notice of Action, which was posted on their registration account as the official notification of selection. This form also tells them which specific visa processing office the paperwork should be mailed to;
- Form I-129: Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, including its H Classification Supplement;
- Their Labor Condition Application previously certified by the U.S. Department of Labor;
- Necessary evidence to prove:
- The job being offered qualifies as a “specialty occupation”;
- There is a legitimate employer-employee relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary;
- The beneficiary has the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree in the appropriate field; and,
- The beneficiary is qualified to fill the job.
Examples of this evidence would be employment contracts, official job descriptions, support letters, and, of course, diplomas or other training certificates.
Along with these documents, the petitioner must pay the following fees:
- Form I-129 filing fee: $460. Necessary for all applications.
- Fraud Detection and Prevention fee: $500. Necessary if:
- The H-1B application is for a first-time beneficiary, OR
- The H-1B application is to authorize a change of employer.
- The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee:
- $750 if the company maintains 25 or fewer full-time employees in the U.S.;
- $1,500 if the company maintains 26 or more full-time employees in the U.S.
(There are some exemptions and waivers for this fee, and it is advised to consult an immigration attorney to confirm whether your case may be exempted).
- Public Law 114-113 fee: $4,000. Necessary if:
- The company maintains 50 or more full-time employees in the U.S.;
- At least 50% of those employees are H-1B workers;
- The petition is either for a first-time beneficiary or to authorize a change of employer.
- (Optional) Premium Processing fee: $2,500. Necessary only if expedited processing is desired. Normal processing of an H-1B petition package can take 2-6 months, depending on individual circumstances. Premium processing reduces that time to 15 calendar days.
When completing this application package, there are a few things that must be kept in mind:
- The data used must match exactly the data that is on the initial registration form (and reflected on the Form I-797C). If a data mismatch occurs, it will not necessarily result in a denial, but it will prolong the process as that discrepancy must be reconciled by additional information.
- All necessary evidence to support the application should be included. If USCIS is not satisfied, they will send to you a request for evidence (RFE), to which you will have 90 days to respond. This, of course, also elongates the overall process.
- The start date of employment must be on or after October 1, 2023. Remember, your visa is for fiscal year 2024, which begins on that day. An earlier date would require a visa for the current fiscal year.
Once USCIS receives and approves this H-1B petition package, they will send a notice of approval to the petitioner. This is the signal that the next steps can be taken:
- If the beneficiary is already in the United States on a different visa classification, they must simply wait until they receive their H-1B visa status before they can begin working for the petitioner;
- If the beneficiary is still in their home country, in order to verify their eligibility to enter the United States, they must:
- File a form DS-160, “Non-immigrant Visa Application” with their local embassy or consulate;
- Be interviewed by a consular officer;
- Receive their H-1B visa stamp in their passport.
After all of that has been completed, the beneficiary may travel to the United States and begin their work.
My registration does not say “Selected.” What next?
If your registration status does not specifically say that it was selected, you need to pay careful attention to what it does say. There are four possible status categories, each with its own meaning:
- “Not Selected.” Unfortunately, this means exactly what it says. Your registration was passed over in the lottery, and was subsequently voided. You will have to wait until the next registration period to try again for an H-1B.
- “Submitted.” Your registration was successfully entered into the system, and will remain eligible for lottery selection (unless otherwise removed).
This is an important distinction from the “Not Selected” category. Suppose USCIS is not able to fill the cap limit from the first lottery’s selected registrations. In that case, they will run a second or even a third lottery on remaining registrations later in the year. Your “Submitted” category, then, tells you that you may still have an opportunity to receive an H-1B visa this year if that situation should occur.
- “Denied.” The principal objective of the registration validity check at the beginning of the lottery is to find and remove any multiple registrations that may have been entered for the same beneficiary. If yours says “Denied,” that is the most likely situation.
Sometimes multiple registrations are submitted purposefully, perhaps by different employers, to try and boost the chances of a particular beneficiary. Sometimes it is a completely inadvertent mistake, for example, the petitioner and his or her attorney may each submit their own registration, unaware that the other has done so as well.
Nevertheless, whether intentional or accidental, multiple registrations for the same beneficiary invalidate all of their registrations without the possibility of appeal.
- “Invalidated – Failed Payment.” Your registration was received and otherwise was proper, but there was no record of a paid $10 fee associated with it. Any number of reasons could account for this, the most likely being a declined or disputed credit card payment.
Regardless of the specific status given to your registration, just remember this: Not being selected in the H-1B registration lottery is not the same as having a visa denied. You are still eligible to apply for alternative visas, or to try for another H-1B visa in the future. So there is no reason to give up hope. In the U.S. we have a saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”
Moving the process forward.
Whether you are an H-1B petitioner or beneficiary, at Levin and Pangilinan PC we can assist you with every step of this journey. If you were selected in this year’s lottery, the date is fast approaching by which the initial H-1B application must be submitted. Let us work with you to ensure that it is not only submitted on time but also without any holes that may either elongate the process or, worse, result in an unnecessary denial. If you were not selected, we can help you explore other visa options that may equally meet your needs. We encourage you to contact us today.