Understanding the H-1B Lottery
The Caps and the Lottery
The caps are basically the number of people who are accepted into the U.S. on an H-1B visa every year.
There are two caps. One is for regular H-1B filings which is called the “Regular Cap”. Every fiscal year 65,000 H-1B regular cap filings are accepted with 6,800 of these being set aside for citizens of Singapore and Chile which if not used they become available to regular cap H-1B filers the next year. The second is called “Cap Exemption” which is a 20,000 allocation for people who have graduated from a Master’s degree program in the US which satisfies certain criteria
Cap filings do not become closed when the cap has been reached as the USCIS always takes more applicants than the cap and then selects the most suitable applicants so with the 65,000 regular cap, 80,000 applicants are considered and a selection process is conducted. For the cap exempt group 25,000 applicants are permitted. Once the USCIS has selected enough people then the cap will be closed for that year. If on a particular day there are too many cases to meet one of the caps the cases received will be subject to a lottery to decide which of all the cases will be accepted for further processing.
Any cases that are not selected in the lottery will be sent back to the attorney of record. All cases filed in April in the first 5 business days are allocated equal priority toward the cap. Throughout the 1st 5 business days of filing, a case that is submitted under the master’s cap which becomes subject to a lottery and is still not randomly selected, the applicant would be transferred for further consideration under the regular cap. If the regular cap for the fiscal year is not attained, surplus cases submitted under the master’s cap will be receipted. Also, if the regular cap is hit for the particular fiscal year, surplus master’s cap cases transfer to the lottery of the regular cap.
When the USCIS on April 1st starts to receive filings a number is assigned to each case. April 7th is the date for the final filing and by this time the USCIS will know if a lottery is to take place. If it is necessary it will take a little longer for applicants to hear the result of their filing which could be up to five weeks.
Normally both H-1B caps are attained within the 1st five business days in April. When this happens, applicants who possess a U.S. Master’s degree who are eligible will have a clear advantage in being eligible for 2 lotteries. If the caps are not reached by April 7 each day of cap counting is treated separately. If the regular H-1B cap is reached on April 11, only those filings received up to April 11th are put in the lottery and any filings earlier than that should be processed. Cases filed on or after April 12th will be subsequently rejected.
Refund of filing fees
If your case is returned due to the H-1B cap being met and it failed to be selected in the lottery, filing fees are refunded. There has been some hint that rejected cases if the cap is increased may be able to file again in a later year.
Premium Processing means an applicant can expect a decision within 15 days following the receipt of his or her petition but there is no guarantee of success if a lottery is held that a case filed will be successful with lottery selection in the event that there is a lottery.
Read about what to do if the H-1B cap is filled. You might also be saved under H-1B cap gap regulations.
Read more about the H-1B visa in our Knowledge Center.
Lottery Guarantee: At our firm, if an H-1B case is not selected for the lottery, we will refile it the following year (same Petitioner, same Beneficiary, for the same position) at a 50% discount.