How Does an H1B Visa Lottery Work?

Non-US foreign nationals take their chances with an H-1B visa lottery each year to have a chance to work in the USA.

It is important to follow all steps correctly to avoid issues, because H-1B applications are accepted only once per year during the application time frame.

In this post we look specifically at the H-1B visa lottery and its function in a wider scope of understanding for the visa application process.

How Does The H1B application process Work?

The lottery is a module of many stages in the H-1B registration process.

The important first point is that the applicant must have a sponsor to line him up in  further processes of the H-1B visa lottery.

Here’s more information on H-1B visa blogs:

Complete Process and Guidance on When to File an Amended H-1B Petition

USCIS Grace Period for H1B Visas 60 days

H1B Application approval things to know

How Many H-1B Visas Can Be Issued for Each Year?

H-1B registrations are limited to 65,000 on an annual basis under the regular cap. Additionnally there are 20,000 visas more available to applicants who are holding a Master’s degree in their profession.

Also, there are 6,800 positions reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile who are part of a particular Free Trade Agreement.

The Function of an H-1B visa lottery

When the H-1B registration window is active the annual registrations for H-1B visas far exceeds the annual cap level for the available number of those visas to be registered.

Selection for H-1B visas is not on a first-come, first-served basis, but the window for it remains open for the full stated period, even though the cap has been already exceeded.

Now the USCIS carries out the lottery for the H-1B registration, once the window has been closed and identifies which registrations will be invited to the next level of their modular system. The selection process will be done randomly during the open time frame for H-1B registrations.

As mentioned, the H-1B visa lottery selection process will be conducted by a random method and neither depends on when the registration was submitted during the time frame nor is there any assessment of the merits of the registration.

Once the yearly limit of 65,000 H-1B visa applicants has been filed, 20,000 petitions will be randomly selected from the Master’s degree cap and the rest of the not yet selected will be returned to the regular H-1B registration cap.

If the H-1B lottery was successful, the applicants will be notified and invited to submit their full H-1B documents within the specified deadline of usually 90 days from notification.

Be sure to note that the H-1B visa lottery does not guarentee you a granted visa. The petition then will be examined in relation to the admission criteria and visa regulations.

How Will Unsuccessful Registrations Be Handled?

H-1B visa applicants who were unsuccessful must wait until the next fiscal year before they can reapply for an H-1B visa.

How High is the Chance to Be Selected in an H-1B Visa Lottery?

In the years of 2019-2020 season, there was a 32 % chance for the H-1B visa applicants of being selected in the visa lottery.

Since the lottery is held only once a year, applicants and their potential sponsors naturally want to ensure that their chances of success are maximized.

You can take steps to avoid problems with your H-1B registration by making sure you follow procedural requirements.

  • Make sure all forms are filled out correctly, all requested information and documents have been submitted, and the correct fees have been paid.
  • Do not submit your H1B application before the application window opens in April.
  • Submit the petition as soon as the window opens.
  • Make sure you have the required degree or work experience to meet the requirements of the position.
  • Make sure that the job itself is eligible for an H1B visa.
  • Apply to different employers for every job offer you have.
  • Do not file multiple applications for one job or employer. If an employer files multiple or duplicate H1B applications for a single employee, they will be denied and not reimbursed.
  • Do not apply for a position that begins more than 6 months after the visa start date.

Although it does not increase your chances of being selected, it can ensure to avoid any possible delays or problems in participating in the selection process.

If You Are Successful in the Lottery for the H-1B Visa

If you have been chosen in the H-B1 visa lottery, you will be notified and asked to file your H-1B cap petition

Your employer must first file Form ETA-9035 (Labor Condition Application, LCA) with the United States Department of Labor to obtain certification.

The LCA should state the employer’s agreement to:

  • pay you a wage not less than the wage paid to similarly qualified employees or, if greater than the wage paid to similarly qualified employees, pay you a wage equal to the generally accepted wage for such position locally


  • Provide you with working conditions that do not adversely affect other similarly situated employees, and that there is no strike or lockout at the time you submit your working request

Once the certification has been granted, the employer must file Form I-129 for a non-immigrant worker application with the appropriate USCIS Service Center along with the certified LCA.

Once your non-immigrant application has been approved, you may apply for your visa through the DS-160 online visa application system. You will be expected to attend an interview at your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Requirements for Your H1B Visa

The H-1B visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies and organizations to employ foreign nationals with college degrees or other professionals in specialty occupations.

The definition of “specialty occupations” in this context are occupations that require practical and theoretical application of highly specialized knowledge, including fields such as engineering, computer science, or medicine.

To apply for an H1B visa, the applicant must have an offer of employment in a suitable position from a US employer and meet at least one of the following conditions:

  • For a successful H-1B registration you need a qualification as a US bachelor or higher degree in the relevant specialty occuption from an accredited eductional university or similar institution
  • A similar foreign degree in the respective specialty occupation
  • An unrestricted state license, registration or certification that allows the applicant for the H-1B visa to practice and work in its profession in the U.S. state in which the company resides.
  • Education, training, or experience in the subject matter equivalent to a an educational degree and that you are recognized as having an appropriate level of expertise in the area of specialization.

There are also H-1B requirements to fulfill your eligibility for the position you intend to be employed in. At least one of the following items must apply:

  • The minimum entry level requirement for the position is a Bachelor’s degree or higher, or equivalent qualifications and experience.
  • The requirement of a degree for this activity must be the norm for the relevant industry, or the activity must be so complicated or specialized that it can only be performed by a person with a degree in this specialty occupation.
  • The employer requires an appropriate degree in this specialty area or an equivalent for all employees which were hired for this position.
  • The duties associated with the job are so complex and specialized that a level of knowledge is required, usually equivalent to a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Here’s more information on H-1B visa blogs:

H-1B 60-Day Grace Period: How Long Can an H-1B Worker Stay in the U.S.

WFH for H1B, new LCA needed; amendment required

How do extensions and renewals for H1B visas work?

What are the rules on H1B Renewal

H-1B Visa Alternatives

If your H-1B application is unsuccessful, seek advice on alternative visas, such as the L1 visa for intra-corporate transferees or the O1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, sports or business. These options will depend to a certain extent on the individual’s situation.

H-1B Visa Lottery – BAIS will be glad to help you in these affairs!

Although we do not conduct legal advice directly, we are an experienced and specialized team who can help fill out H-1B visas completely and correctly. All of the required documents will be compiled for the application process. All steps will be managed effectively, because if there are any questions while in the process or afterwards, we see open communication as a very valuable tool. So, especially for complicated procedures like H-1B visa registration or the H-1B visa lottery which is of highly competitive nature needs an expertise of a helping hand where a client can rely on.

Feel free to contact us for advice. We are happy to assist you in your endeavours about the H1B visa, or any other matter which is related to US immigration.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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