H1B Visa Lottery

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If you are new to the H1B visa application procedure, you may come across terminology like “H1B Lottery” or “H1B Registration Lottery” that are unfamiliar to you. This page covers all you need to know about the H1B Registration Lottery, including its history, how the H1B lottery works, how it relates to registration and frequently asked questions.

H1B Visa Lottery

Table of Content

  1. What is H1B Visa Lottery? Random Selection?
  2. Why H1B Visa Lottery? Is it mandatory?
  3. H1B Lottery Process before Online Registration System
  4. H1B Lottery Process with Online Registration System
  5. H1B Lottery Process for FY 2023 Season
  6. H1B Lottery Order – Regular vs Masters Quota
  7. Step by Step H1B Registration Process with Lottery Order
  8. FAQs
  9. History of H1B Visa Lottery Process until FY 2019

What is H1B Visa Lottery? Random Selection?

When it comes to the lottery, the word might be highly receptive to newcomers. I’ve seen users inquire, “Where should I get an H1B Visa lottery ticket for 2023?” “I’d want to acquire an H1B visa…” To begin with, there is nothing like purchasing a lottery ticket for an H1B visa. You are not permitted to purchase any H1B lottery tickets. It is just the word used to describe USCIS’s “random selection” method.

The H1B lottery is just a “random selection mechanism” for selecting the requisite number of H1B applicants from a bigger pool of candidates. The lottery is used to choose enough candidates to fulfil the H1B Cap of 65,000 for the Regular quota and 20,000 for the Master’s quota.

H1B Lottery: In 2007, the USCIS officially referred to the H1B lottery process as “computer-generated random selection methods.” As time passed, people began to accept the vernacular term “Lottery” for the same… You can see that USCIS has adopted the phrase “computer-generated procedure, often known as the lottery” in recent years, including this year’s press release because it is simple to understand and many people can connect to it.

Why H1B Visa Lottery? Is it mandatory?

The H1B Lottery issue occurs because there are a limited amount of H1B visa slots available each year (about 85K) for new applicants. The H1B Lottery occurs when there are more than 85,000 applications for H1B in a given year.

Looking back in time, we had the H1B visa lottery situation in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 since there were more petitions received by USCIS. There was no lottery situation for the next four years. Again, the demand for H1B visas began in FY 2014, and we have now had it for the last 9 years in a row, including the prior fiscal year 2022.

H1B Lottery Process before Online Registration System

Previously, until the FY 2020 season (which concluded in April 2019), employers had to submit the whole H1B petition package within the first 5 days, beginning April 1st, to be eligible for the H1B Lottery. They would assign a number to each H1B petition received and utilize a computer-generated random selection to choose the required number of applications to satisfy the quota.

The information from the actual H1B packages was entered into the USCIS web system, and then a lottery or random selection was performed. With the advent of the Online Registration System in the fiscal year 2021, this changed. Let’s take a closer look at that online registration process in the next part.

H1B Lottery Process with Online Registration System

Starting with H1B Fiscal Year 2021 (March 2020), USCIS implemented the Online H1B Registration Process, which eliminated the whole paper-based filing process of H1B applications for lottery selection.

Instead, they implemented a simple, lightweight online process for registering an application for whom they intend to sponsor H1B for the following fiscal year. The information will be used by USCIS to execute a computer-generated random selection or lottery to determine the individuals who will be able to file the actual H1B petition.

Employers would provide basic information about H1B applicants through an Online H1B Registration Tool as part of the new H1B registration procedure. When new registrations are made, the system generates a lengthy 19-digit number. This number is utilized for internal tracking as well as by USCIS to administer the H1B Lottery. The random selection or lottery method is entirely computerized.

The screenshot below shows the H1B Registration Selection notification with the Beneficiary Confirmation Number.

Notice of Selected H1B Registration in Lottery - Beneficiary Confirmation Number - H1B Visa Lottery
Notice of Selected H1B Registration in Lottery – Beneficiary Confirmation Number

H1B Lottery Process for FY 2023 Season

There are no modifications to the H1B Lottery procedure for the fiscal year 2023. It will be based on computer-based random selection, as in prior years. No candidate will be given favour based on their place of origin, salary, education, or other factors.

H1B Lottery Based on Wage Levels Is No Longer Available for the Fiscal Year 2023 Season: DHS announced a final regulation in January 2021 saying that the H1B Lottery will be conducted based on H1B Wage Levels. However, in October 2020, a court lawsuit was filed contesting this regulation, and in September 2021, the court annulled the H1B Lottery based on the Wage Levels Rule. The regulation was officially withdrawn from the Federal Register by USCIS in December 2021.

H1B Lottery Order – Regular vs Masters Quota

The USCIS will choose enough applications to fill the H1B cap, which is about 65,000 for the Regular cap and 20,000 for the Master’s cap. The sequence of the H1B Lottery is essential since it determines the likelihood of selection.

Previous H1B Lottery Order :

  • Prior to FY 2020, the random selection aka H1B lottery was first undertaken for the Master’s quota, and then the unselected petitions from the Master’s quota were placed in the general quota pool, and a random selection procedure was run for the general quota cap.
  • To provide more preference to US Masters’s students, USCIS modified the sequence of the lottery starting with the H1B FY 2020 Season (March 2019), when the Registration Process rule was enacted. Let’s take a closer look at the lottery’s sequence.

Current H1B Lottery Order with H1B Registration Process (FY 2023)

DHS followed the nine steps of the Federal rulemaking process and published the H1B registration rule, which contained a modification in the H1B lottery method, which modified the order of the lottery.

The following is the new method that will be implemented beginning with the fiscal 2020 season (March 2019):

  • 1: A lottery is held on the complete pool of H1B registrants to choose the applicants needed to fill the regular cap quota of 65,000.
  • 2: The unselected Masters’ quota petitions from the whole pool are removed, and a lottery is held to determine the 20,000-petition US masters quota maximum.
  • 3: Selected H1B candidates from both the normal and master’s quotas are contacted.
  • 4: Unselected H1B candidates from Steps 1 and 2 are placed in a reserve pool to be drawn in a second or third round if necessary.

The whole flow chart of how the lottery works is shown below:

US Masters Students Advantages with H1B Registration System

According to USCIS, those with US master’ degrees earn 19.6 percent more than those with bachelor’s degrees. As a result of the lottery reversal, higher-paid and more talented workers will be able to work in the US on H1B visas.

Because of the change in lottery order, about 5,340 additional US master’ students will be selected for H1B petition files. DHS argues that the new regulation is merit-based since the new lottery order will boost the number of H1Bs granted to US master’s students.

To make it easier to grasp, let’s describe the New H1B Registration Process with Lottery.

Step by Step H1B Registration Process with Lottery Order

  • Step 1 – Create a pool of potential hires for H1B sponsorship: Employers that wish to sponsor H1B visas for persons they plan to recruit must first electronically register the individuals with USCIS within the registration period designated by USCIS.
  • Step 2 – H1B Applicants Registration: Employers will have at least 14 days (18 days for FY 2023, from March 1st to March 18th) to electronically register employees with their firm information. They can amend, remove, and change the candidate information until the registration time expires.
  • Step 3 – H1B Lottery Process: USCIS will perform a computer-generated random selection called Lottery to choose normal quota filing registrants, then segregate the masters’ quota and run a lottery to select US masters quota filing registrants.
  • Step 4 – Notify Selected Registrants: The USCIS electronically notifies the selected registrants’ employers/sponsors that they must submit H1B petitions within 90 days. They plan to have it on April 1st. Unselected registrations are held in reserve for future selections.
  • Step 5 – Submit H1B petitions to USCIS: Employers must submit H1B petitions following the regular method, including LCA, fees, and all supporting documentation for the selected registrant.
  • Step 6 – USCIS Processing: The USCIS will judge the petition according to their usual procedure and notify employers about their petition. The diagram below depicts the same information.


Is the H1B Registration Process and Lottery relevant for the H1B Visa Season 2023?

Yes. The H1B Registration procedure, including the H1B Lottery, is valid through the fiscal year 2023. There is an electronic registration method for H1B visas.

What happens if you are not chosen in the H1B lottery? Is there a new registration system?

Previously, if you were not selected in the H1B Lottery, you received a tangible rejection letter and your filing money was refunded to the employer.  However, under the new H1B Registration System, you will no longer receive a tangible notification of refusal. In the registration system, the status will be changed to ‘Not Selected.’

Is it mandatory for USCIS to perform the H1B lottery if additional registrations are filed? What are the rules?

Yes, the USCIS is required to hold an H1B lottery or random selection. Prior to the computerized registration method, they were also required to keep the filing window open for the first 5 days. Details may be found under USCIS Regulations on H1B Lottery.

With the new registration system in place, the notion of paper notifications and general lottery is no longer present, and USCIS would conduct the H1B Lottery electronically utilizing their web system if more registrations were received during the registration period.

If you want to know how the H1B Lottery used to function in the past, you may read about it below.

History of H1B Visa Lottery Process until FY 2019

Until the fiscal year 2019 season, USCIS followed the H1B lottery method outlined below. This notion of lottery or random selection would only be used if we had received more applications than were necessary for the actual cap count, like in the case of the H1B visa 2019 quota lottery. Since USCIS’s start in 2007, the process has remained largely consistent.

  • Step 1: The first thing USCIS would do after receiving an H1B petition is to label and identify each petition with a unique identification. This is the number that the random selection process would use. Once tagged, the total petitions will be divided into two groups, one for masters quota and one for the normal quota.
  • Step 2: If more than 20,000 petitions for the masters quota are submitted, they will execute a computer-generated random selection procedure, known as the H1B lottery, across all masters petitions pools to choose the 20,000 petitions that would reach the cap for the Masters quota for FY 2019.
  • Step 3: All H1B petitions filed under the master’s quota that were not selected in the lottery or random selection are put or merged with all petitions received under the normal quota.
  • Step 4: If the total number of petitions in the combined pool exceeds the maximum limit of 65,000, a computer-generated random selection procedure is conducted on the pool to identify the petitions that will qualify for the regular quota cap limit.
  • Step 5: The USCIS will email the service centres a list of all selected petition numbers. The selected petitions will be adjudicated by the USCIS service centers at the next stage of H1B visa processing.
  • Step 6: All petitions that were not chosen at random or through a lottery will be returned to their respective parties, either attorneys or employers, together with the Fee. If an employer filed multiple forms for the same employee, no cost will be refunded. More information about this stage is provided below.
  • Step 7: The USCIS will assign a case number to each of the selected petition holders for tracking reasons during processing. It will be a number assigned by the EAC.

The procedure till the fiscal year 2019 season is depicted in the diagram below at a high level. You may view the video below the chart to learn about the H1B lottery process in detail.

H1B Visa Lottery

Do you now have a clear knowledge of the Old and New H1B lottery processes? Did we leave anything out? Leave your opinions in the comments.

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