H-1B Lottery: If you don’t register, you can’t play

Close up view of H1B visa stamp in passport

The virtual transaction takes place: $10 in exchange for a string of randomly selected numbers and a chance at the “American Dream.” Regardless of how you define the “American Dream,” at its core is freedom and opportunity. Think I am talking about tonight’s lottery drawing? Not exactly. I am referring to the annual H-1B electronic registration, also known as the H-1B Lottery.

For many employers, the H-1B visa is commonly used to employ highly skilled foreign nationals to work in specialty occupations. Employers with either an existing or prospective employee (“beneficiary”) – located overseas or physically present in the U.S. in another nonimmigrant status – may file an H-1B petition to enable the beneficiary to live and work in here for up to six years. The H-1B also paves the path for the beneficiary to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S.

Nonprofits related to or affiliated with higher education institutions, institutions of higher education, and nonprofit or governmental research organizations are considered “cap-exempt” employers. They may file petitions and their beneficiaries may begin working at any time. But suppose an employer doesn’t fall into one of those categories. In that case, the employer must first register for the H-1B lottery.

A limited number of H-1B visas are allocated each year. Only 65,000 are allocated for first-time beneficiaries with bachelor’s degrees. An additional 20,000 are allocated to first-time beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. Registration is the first step for employers subject to the visa cap. From now until March 18, employers and their attorneys may complete online registration for beneficiaries. At the end of the period, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will randomly select registrations and notify employers of selections.

Like the lottery, the only way to be selected is to register. If the registration is selected, employers and their attorneys have 90 days to prepare and file the H-1B packet for selected beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries, with approved H-1B petitions, may begin working in H-1B status on Oct. 1, 2022. Given this short time frame, it is advisable to anticipate a selected registration and begin preliminary steps now.

As the lottery saying goes, “if you don’t play, you can’t win.” Likewise, if you don’t register, you can’t be selected.

This article appeared in the March 3, 2022, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.