This is the first post in an upcoming H-1B Frequently Asked Questions series. Please contact your Dentons Immigration attorney for additional information and the next steps on the H-1B application process and lottery.
H-1B status is reserved for professionals with a bachelors or higher degree or foreign equivalent performing a job that requires a degree in a specific field (a “specialty occupation”).
Many years ago, Congress chose 65,000 as the number of new H-1Bs to award each fiscal year. Later, an additional 20,000 H-1Bs were allocated to people who earned U.S. master’s or higher degrees. This combined total of 85,000 is known as the H-1B “cap.” Exceptions exist, but most private-sector employers are subject to the cap.
Because many more applications for H-1Bs are made each year than the number available, the process turned into a lottery. In 2020, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) installed a new registration system, scrapping the old application process that required employers and immigration practitioners to pre-prepare and mail in all H-1B lottery petitions in the first five business days of April.
Now employers and their legal counsel submit H-1B applicants via an online registration system, which is far less burdensome than the prior application process. This year, registration is open from March 1 – March 17. USCIS has announced they intend to notify selected registrants by March 31. H-1B petitions for selected registrants can be filed beginning April 1 and up to 90 days thereafter.
Q: Who is eligible for the H-1B lottery?
A: Two factors make a foreign national eligible for H-1B status. Foreign nationals with (1) a U.S. bachelor’s or higher-level degree (or foreign equivalent); and (2) a valid job offer from a legitimate, cap-subject U.S. employer. The degree held by the candidate must be related to the role offered and the job must require a degree in a specialty field to perform the occupation.
Q: Am I ineligible for the lottery this year if I graduate earning my bachelor’s degree in May?
A: Students completing their bachelor’s or higher-level degree are not required to have earned their qualifying degree before the registration period closes. So long as their degree is earned before the H-1B filing window concludes (Friday, Jun 30), they’re eligible for this year’s H-1B cap.
Q: Will submitting my registration on the first day increase my odds of selection?
A: No. The lottery is conducted randomly after the registration period closes. Your odds for selection will increase with a US master’s or higher-level degree, otherwise, there is no way to improve your odds, it is truly random.