H-1B quota opens on April 1st of every year and has a five business day minimum application submission time. H-1B quota consists of 65,000 regular and 20,000 U.S. Master Degree visas. This year the total applications in the first five days were approximately 124,000, thus USCIS had to use a computerized lottery system to determine who amongst the 124,000 applicants would be included in the quota. Because of the way the lottery is conducted, applicants with U.S. Master’s Degrees have always higher chance of being selected. First lottery is conducted for the applicants who possess U.S. Master’s Degree and second lottery for the regular quota. Applicants with U.S. Master Degrees who are not selected in the first lottery for 20,000 spots have the opportunity to be a part of the second lottery for the regular quota for 65,000 spots. It is important to note that being selected in the lottery does not guarantee a visa approval.
Applicants who were selected in this year’s quota started receiving their “receipt notices” in late April. USCIS will return the application packets to applicants who were not selected in the quota.
Increased interest in H-1B visas carries a significant importance for applicants planning to apply for an H-1B visa in the upcoming year. Considering the probability of reapplication of this year’s quota rejects as well as the new applicants entering the market, it is almost inevitable to figure out that it will be harder to make it in the next year’s quota. We would not be surprised if USCIS received 200,000 applications for the 85,000 available spots in the first five days of April next year, which would necessitate a lottery again with slighter chances of getting selected.
We advise next year’s possible H-1B applicants to start preparing their applications on a timely basis and have it ready to be submitted and received by USCIS by April 1, 2014. One way of increasing the chances of getting selected in a possible lottery would be receiving job offers from two or more companies. It is important to note that different companies can submit H-1B applications on behalf of a single applicant. However, if one company submits more than one application for the same applicant, the applicant would be disqualified automatically from the quota.
Finally, it would be interesting to see what the new immigration reform would bring for H-1B quota numbers. If the reform can go through the senate and the house debates without significant changes, the quota numbers will be increased significantly, which might eliminate the need of a lottery.
Remzi Guvenc Kulen, Esq.