USCIS finalizes changes to H-1B Lottery

DHS has announced a final rule for a more effective and efficient H-1B visa program. The final rule (1) adds a pre-registration process to the H-1B lottery, and (2) reverses the order in which the H-1B lottery is run to maximize the number of visas awarded to applicants with advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and universities. 

Importantly, USCIS will only implement the reversed selection process for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap filing season (April 2019). In order to make sure the registration system has been properly tested, the final rule’s pre-registration requirement is being suspended until at least the (FY) 2021 H-1B cap filing season (April 2020). Employers will therefore need to plan on preparing full H-1B petitions for the upcoming (FY) 2020 H-1B cap filing season, as done in the past years. 

Reversing the order of the H-1B lottery 

H-1B visas are capped at 85,000 per year, which include 20,000 for applicants with a U.S. Master’s Degree or higher. Under the current system, applicants with a U.S. Master’s Degree or higher are first run through a 20,000 “Master’s Cap” sub-lottery. Then, the unselected applications are put into the main 65,000-visa lottery pool. 

The final rule would flip the order, put the higher-educated workers into the main 65,000-visa lottery pool first, and any left-over petitions would go into the 20,000 “Master’s Cap” lottery. This would increase the chances for applicants with a U.S. master’s or higher degree of being selected for USCIS adjudication. 

Amit Solanki, Immigration Executive 

Keywords: H-1B cap, USCIS, Lottery, DHS

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