On the heels of a surprise announcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has conducted a second round of H-1B cap lottery selections. This move was much-anticipated by employers and foreign national workers alike.
- The new selections were taken from the existing pool of H-1B registrations entered in March 2023.
- Employers may want to check their USCIS accounts for new selection notices.
- The filing window for the second round of selections will be open from August 2, 2023, to October 31, 2023.
Background on the H-1B Cap Lottery
Each fiscal year (FY), the total number of new H-1B visas available for issuance is capped at 85,000. This includes a general quota of 65,000 visas, as well as 20,000 visas reserved for foreign national workers who have received qualifying master’s degree or higher degrees from U.S. higher education institutions. If USCIS receives more H-1B petitions for new beneficiaries than available H-1B visas in a fiscal year, it will conduct a randomized lottery to determine which petitions will be eligible to receive H-1B visas. U.S. employers’ demand for H-1B visas has steadily increased each year, eclipsing the available visa quota every fiscal year. This has resulted in annual H-1B cap lotteries being conducted and has created fierce competition for available visas.
In previous years, employers were required to submit full H-1B petitions physically to USCIS in the first week of April in order to enter their H-1B candidates for consideration in the lottery. Only one lottery round was conducted each year.
Since USCIS implemented the electronic registration process in 2020, it has been able to track actual usage of the H-1B visa quota much more accurately and conduct multiple rounds of selections. However, there is no guarantee USCIS will conduct more than one round of selections every fiscal year. In FY 2022, USCIS conducted three rounds of selections, but in FY 2023 only one round of selections was conducted.
State of the FY 2024 H-1B Cap
This year, 780,884 H-1B registrations were entered in March 2023. Of these registrations, 408,891 were duplicate registrations. After conducting the first round of selections for the FY 2024 H-1B cap lottery, USCIS revealed it planned to take action to combat suspected fraud in the H-1B registration process based on the exponentially growing number of duplicate H-1B registrations from FY 2023 and FY 2024. This led to ongoing speculation from the employer and greater immigration community about the possibility of a second round of H-1B selections this year.
USCIS released updated statistics on the FY 2024 H-1B cap after the second lottery:
Interestingly, in its latest announcement, USCIS disclosed that FY 2024 H-1B cap petition filing rates had noticeably decreased in comparison with the three previous fiscal years—possibly due to USCIS’s recent efforts in fraud prevention and investigation. Whether USCIS will conduct a third lottery during this fiscal year remains to be seen. Any new rounds of selections this fiscal year will continue to be taken from the pool of H-1B registrations entered in March 2023.