In the midst of a global pandemic that has caused court closures and consulate shutdowns, the debut of USCIS’s new H-1B lottery system occurred. Where before a petitioning company would have to complete an entire H-1B application, send it USCIS, and hope that their petition was selected in the “lottery,” as it’s called, USCIS for Fiscal Year 2021 (jobs starting October 1, 2020) unveiled a new system.
In this new system, rather than preparing an entire H-1B submission to USCIS in order to enter the lottery, a petitioning company needed only some basic information, an account on USCIS’s website, and $10 to secure its spot in the selection process. Unsurprisingly, by drastically lowering the cost of admission, the number of H-1B registrants this year soared to an all-time-high.
For reference, by law there are only a total of 85,000 H-1Bs available – 65,000 under the “regular cap,” and an extra 20,000 for advanced (Master’s or higher) degrees. For the past three years, numbers of applications have held fairly steady, with approximately 199,000 being filed in 2017 and 2018 and 201,000 filed in 2019. These numbers, of course, far exceeded the number of visas available, hence the term “lottery.” In the past three years, an individual had about a one in three shot at being approved to apply.
This year, however, USCIS has announced that it received 275,000 registrations. While it should be noted that many experts expected much higher numbers considering the drastically lowered cost of participating in this year’s lottery, this number is still the highest number of H-1B registrations in the program’s history, with second place coming in at 236,000 in 2017, nearly 40,000 registrations, or around 15%, fewer.
Those selected may now pursue their H-1B applications in full, submitting evidence that their jobs fall under the statutory and regulatory definitions of “specialty occupations.” If you have questions relating to the H-1B program, your application, or options on how to proceed, whether selected or not, please contact our office.
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