The United States Citizen and Immigration Services officially announced on April 12, 2018 that the H-1B lottery was completed for fiscal year 2018-19. Only 190,098 petitions were received from the beginning of the season (April 2nd) to the official completion date on April 6th. On April 11th, the computer-generation selection process picked at random the designated number of petitions to meet the cap.
The number of petitions received during 2018-2019 H-1B season was slightly lower than the number of petitions received in the previous season (close to 199,000). We have the full info on last year’s results as well as some information on your H-1B chances in 2019-2020 season in this post.
Under the regular cap, 65,000 petitions were selected in addition to 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption. Moving forward, USCIS will not longer be accepting petitions that are filed under the regular or advanced degree exemption cap until April 1st 2019.
How the H-1B Lottery 2018-19 Process Worked
Here’s a brief overview of how the H-1B cap lottery functions.
- The computer generated selection process picked 20,000 advanced degree petitions from the pool. Those that were not accepted were transferred to the regular cap pool for selection.
- The second lottery selection picked 65,000 to meet the regular H-1B cap.
- 6,800 spots were reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile.
- Cap-exempt petitions are those that fall under the following guidelines:
- Previously counted against the cap
- Intended to extend or lengthen the H-1B worker’s time in the country (visa extension)
- Change the employment terms for current H-1B employees (i.e. location, responsibilities, duties, etc.)
- H-1B transfer to change employers
- Allow the worker to be employed in a second position
Petitions received by USCIS between April 2nd, 2018 and April 6th, 2018 had equal chances of selection in the lottery. This means that all petitions submitted within the given time frame were processed regardless of whether a petition was received on the 2nd or the 6th. Submitting earlier does not increase your chances of being selected.
H-1B Visa Lottery 2019 Important Dates
Petitioners can expect to find out about the results of the lottery selection in the weeks (35-40 days) after the lottery has been conducted. Those petitions that have been selected are to be sent to the adjudicating service center. Afterward, an EAC number will be issued to monitor the ongoing status.
Another way to determine whether your H-1B petition has been selected in the lottery is to look at your bank statement to see if the H-1B filing fee check was cashed by USCIS. In the event that it is cashed, be sure to make a note indicating the date.
April 2nd 2018 was the official filing date for petitions. Under normal circumstances, the USCIS would have begun processing petitions on April 1st, or the first business day in April. However, due to the fact that April 1st falls on a Sunday in 2018, the USCIS began processing petitions on Monday, April 2nd. It is important to note that any petitions submitted before April 2nd 2018 were rejected.
What if I wasn’t selected in the lottery?
If your petition is not selected in the lottery, USCIS will return your petition and filing fee unless determined to be a duplicate filing, in which case it will be returned without the fee.
What does wait-listed mean?
If your petition was marked as “wait-listed” that means it may replace a petition that was initially selected but later found to be ineligible or denied. The USCIS has confirmed that it selects more petitions than are given in the cap in anticipation of some being withdrawn or rejected.
H-1B 2018-2019 Chances of Selection
Since the USCIS did not specify how many advanced degree exemption petitions were received, it’s not possible to calculate exact percentages. However, based on the information we have received, here’s how it stands:
- For the 2018-2019 season, all regular cap-subject candidates had a 38% chance of selection. This is based on 65,000 petitions selected from the 170,098 that were filed, as we know that 20,000 petitions had already been selected toward the Master’s cap before the second lottery was conducted.
- Advanced degree exempt petitioners have a greater chance of selection than a regular cap petition because they will be included in both lotteries.
Note that the actual chances will be lower because up to 6,800 visas are set aside for Chile and Singapore nationals based on the Free Trade Agreement.
2019-2020 Update: Master’s Cap Reversal
Through President Trump’s new Buy American and Hire American executive order, the USCIS has been empowered to make some radical changes to the H-1B process. One such change that has gone into effect for the 2020 cap is a reversal of the lottery cap order.
In previous years, the master’s cap was conducted first to select 20,000 petitions from the ones with master’s degrees. Then, the unselected petitions would be entered into the regular cap. This past year, however, the regular cap was conducted first followed by the master’s cap.
This effectively raised the percentage of master’s degree holders who were selected. Because the regular cap was conducted and included all cap-subject petitions, some of the master’s petitions were selected before ever reaching the master’s lottery. Then, all unselected master’s petitions were entered into the exclusive master’s cap, which had a smaller pool of petitions since some had already been selected.
Keep in mind that this rule is in effect indefinitely until further notice, so we can expect this same order to be implemented in the 2021 H-1B filing season.
2019-2020 Update: H-1B Pre-Registration
Another change that was put in motion but not put into effect yet is the pre-registration rule for the H-1B. This rule replaces petitions with registrations with the USCIS for the lottery. Essentially, rather than employers filing petitions to be entered into the lottery, they will instead register their beneficiary in the USCIS database. The service will then conduct the lottery using these registrations and select the winning beneficiaries. Those that are selected will have their employers file petitions along with filing fees and supporting evidence.
The USCIS is still in the process of testing this new system and has already implemented it. However, because testing is not complete, the system is suspended for the 2019-2020 filing season. We can, however, expect for this to take full effect in the 2021 filing season.
2019-2020 H-1B Under Trump
The President of the United States has taken a keen interest in the immigration policies surrounding nonimmigrant visas, especially the H-1B. While nothing is yet set in stone, President Trump is calling for several plans to be put in place to reduce the number of opportunities that people and companies have to abuse the system.
Some potential changes include both regular H-1B work site visits and a removal of the current H-1B lottery system in favor of a system that gives preference to foreign professionals that earn more income.
While these changes may not take effect for some time, it is important to keep them in mind when considering alternatives to the H-1B visa for the 2019 season.
If you believe that these changes may affect your H-1B results, then it is always best to consult an immigration attorney to plan ahead for your immigration future.
The Petition Filing Fees were changed in the recent years
Two major changes – introduced in recent years – have greatly affected the H-1B filing fees for 2018-2019 and will affect the fees for future years. While these changes have been implemented for several years, we want to make sure that everyone is aware of the current filing fees. We will keep you up-to-date with the latest changes, but it is always a good idea to consult with your immigration lawyer to see how these changes affect your particular situation.
- As of December 23rd, 2016, the basic filing fee for the I-129 petition has gone up from last year’s $325 to this year’s $460.
- The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-113) raised the additional fee that must be paid by certain employers from $2,000 to $4,000. This fee is only applicable to employers that have more than 50 employees, half of whom are working under H-1B visas.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
If you learn that you were not selected in the current H-1B lottery, your options are not over. Our immigration attorneys can offer additional options to begin the process for the next H-1B season or advise you whether or not a different visa may be suitable. For instance, we often have clients debating between an L1 vs H-1B visa. If you find yourself in this situation it’s important to contact us immediately.
We have an excellent track record in complex H-1B cases including transfers and extensions for individuals as well as small businesses.
SGM Law Group will report any new immigration developments as they arise. Stay tuned for an update on the current H-1B lottery season, coming soon! Contact us today to schedule your consultation