Prepare for the H-1B the Lottery: H-1B FAQs – Part 1
The demand for cap-subject H-1Bs continues to be high. Therefore, it is imperative that employers, employees, and their immigration counsel start petition preparations early.
1. What is the H-1B visa?The H-1B visa classification is designed for foreign workers who will be employed in a
professional occupation that requires at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent and
2. How many H-1B visas are available?There is an annual limit of 85,000 cap-subject H-1B visas available, which includes 65,000 visas
for foreign nationals holding a bachelor*s degree or its equivalent (minus 6,800 carved out for
Chile and Singapore H-1Bs) and 20,000 for those holding U.S. advanced degrees, such as a
master*s. This is what is known as the H-1B visa cap, which is congressionally mandated. Not all
H-1B visas are subject to this annual cap
3. Who is not subject to this cap?Certain petitions are exempt from this annual cap, including current H-1B holders who need an
extension, are filing for a change of employer, or are filing amendments to the terms of
employment (such as part-time to full-time or other material job changes).
Past H-1B holders who were already counted against the cap but did not use the full six-year
stay are also exempt and can apply to use the remainder of H-1B time. Additionally, petitions
filed by institutions of higher education, related or affiliated non-profit entities, non-profit
research organizations, and governmental research organizations are exempt.
4. When can I file for cap-subject H-1B visas?USCIS* fiscal year (FY) runs from October 1st to September 30th. H-1B petitions can only be filed
within six months of the employment start date. Thus, the filing period begins the first Monday
in April. USCIS typically accepts H-1B cap-subject petitions for the first five business days.
Because of the very short filing period and the considerable work required before filing, it is
very important to start early to prepare a properly completed H-1B petition.
5. Will there be a lottery for H-1B visas?For the past several years, demand has far exceeded the H-1B cap, and a lottery is expected
6. How does the lottery work?USCIS conducts an electronic random selection (lottery.) This process is undergoing changes.
The selected petitions undergo the first screening to eliminate petitions that do not comply
with the filing requirements. About 3-4 months after the lottery is completed, USCIS begins
returning the unselected petitions along with the filing fees.
7. What happens if my petition is selected?About two to three weeks after the completion of the lottery, USCIS starts issuing receipt
notices for the selected petitions. Those petitions filed using premium processing service (if this
service is available) will be processed first and receive the first notices.
The receipt notice has a 13-digit alphanumeric receipt number, such as *EAC-17-010-34567*.
The three letters indicate the filing center: EAC for the Eastern Adjudication Center located in
Vermont and WAC for the Western Adjudication Center located in California. The next two
digits are the filing year. This number can be used to track the processing of the petition.
8. What is premium processing service?Premium processing provides expedited handling for an additional filing fee. The decision to
use this service should be made as part of the strategic case analysis if the service is available.
9. Who should apply for an H-1B visa?- Foreign students in the United States in F-1 status who have received their degree. Often
these students are in F-1 OPT or CPT at the time of the H-1B visa filing.
- Professionals abroad seeking to come and work in the United States.
- Foreign nationals in the United States in other valid statuses, such as H-4, L-1, TN (Mexican
and Canadian citizens), E-3 (Australian citizens), H-4 (H-1B dependents), E-1/E-2 (investors),
and P-1 (athletes)