H-1B visa lottery season now open until March 18

H-1b Visa USA banner

It’s the lottery that can pay dividends for U.S. employers and foreign nationals.

Today marks the official opening of the H-1B lottery season. This is the time in which employers who seek to hire or retain foreign national professionals to fill highly skilled positions in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, technology and other specialty occupations to enter the lottery for a chance to sponsor their foreign national for the coveted H-1B visa.

The H-1B visa is a sought-after visa category for many U.S. employers and highly skilled foreign nationals. For employers, the H-1B is an attractive recruitment and retention benefit. It enables the employer with either an existing or prospective employee (“beneficiary”) — located overseas or physically present in the United States in another nonimmigrant status, e.g., an individual authorized through Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT — to employ the beneficiary for up to six years. Most beneficiaries find the H-1B attractive as the visa not only enables the beneficiary to live and work in the United States, but it also paves the path to becoming a legal permanent resident of the United States. However, there are limits on who can apply and when; so lean in.

Which employers must register for the lottery?

The H-1B lottery only applies to employers that are not considered “cap-exempt.” Those with cap-exempt status include non-profit organizations related to or affiliated with higher education institutions, institutions of higher education, and non-profit or governmental research organizations. If an organization does not fall within any of the cap-exempt categories, the employer must file an electronic registration and pay a $10 fee for each beneficiary NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, MARCH 18TH, 11am CST.

How many H-1B visas are available through the lottery?

A limited number of H-1B visas are allocated each fiscal year. Only 65,000 visas are allocated for first-time beneficiaries with bachelor’s degrees. An additional 20,000 visas are allocated to first-time beneficiaries with advanced degrees from U.S. educational institutions. Registration is the first step in the H-1B process for employers subject to the visa cap. At the end of the registration period, USCIS will randomly select registrations and will notify employers of the selections on March 31, 2022.

Preparing to “win” the lottery

If you are one of the lucky employers with a selected registration, time is of the essence. Employers and their attorneys have only 90 days to prepare and file the H-1B packet for the selected beneficiaries. Those beneficiaries, with approved H-1B petitions, may begin working in the H-1B status on October 1, 2022. Given this short timeframe, it is advisable to begin the preliminary steps now in anticipation of a selected registration.

You can’t file if you don’t register; and you can’t win if you don’t file.

For assistance with H-1B registrations, filing of petitions, as well as other employment-related immigration matters, please contact the author.