As we enter the H-1B visa 2024 cap lottery season, U.S. employers and their attorneys are busy preparing their registrations and entering the annual H-1B lottery. One way to make your registration stand out in the H-1B 2024-2025 season is to enter the H-1B master’s cap degree exemption, a separate lottery for those who possess advanced degrees from eligible U.S. institutions. The master’s degree route gives individuals a better chance of being selected for the H-1B visa because there are only a limited number of visas available each year. It may sound simple, but there are precise requirements to follow when applying. So let’s delve into the H-1B advanced degree cap, how it can benefit you, and how you can enter it.

If you were selected in the 2024-25 H-1B visa lottery, contact VisaNation attorneys for filing your H-1B petition.

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Important Update

USCIS has finalized the selection process for H-1B registrations for Fiscal Year 2025. Individuals who have been selected are advised to take swift action. Employers can access the official selection notice, which includes crucial instructions for both beneficiaries and themselves to ensure the timely submission of a fully prepared H-1B petition. The entire H-1B application can be submitted online or via mail to USCIS between April 1, 2024, and June 30, 2024, which marks the submission deadline.

Updates to keep in mind:

  • All paper-based H-1B petitions must be filed at USCIS lockbox locations.
  • Petitioners must include a copy of the selection notice with the FY 2025 H-1B cap-subject petition.
  • Petitioners are required to submit evidence of the beneficiary’s valid passport or travel document used at the time of registration.
  • Prepaid mailers will no longer be accepted for H-1B filings.
  • Petitioners with selected beneficiaries whose OPT or EAD is expiring during the 90-day filing window must file their petition with USCIS before their OPT or EAD expiration date.
  • New version of the I-129 form must be used.
  • New increased filing fees are in effect.

Given the time-sensitive nature of the H-1B petition process, we strongly advise all concerned parties to commence preparations without delay. Delays in initiating the H1B filing could exacerbate any unforeseen issues that may arise, potentially jeopardizing the timely submission of the petition. Our experienced H1B legal team stands ready and available to provide comprehensive assistance throughout the entirety of the H-1B petition process.

H-1B Visa Petition Graphic

What is H-1B Master’s Cap in 2024–2025

USCIS issues 65,000 visas in the regular H-1B cap (those who do not qualify for the master’s degree exemption) and an additional 6,800 spots for Chilean and Singaporean residents. Another 20,000 places are available to candidates with a U.S. master’s degree or higher from eligible universities or institutions.

H-1B Master's Cap for 2023-2024 Advanced Degree Exemption Graph

As you can see, by having a registration that could be entered into the 2024-2025 H-1B master’s quota, you have a prime spot for an EB-2 green card. This has the advantage of generally having a much shorter waiting time than the EB-3, which is the green card that most H-1B employees qualify for.

H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption Eligibility

The primary advantage of the H-1B advanced degree exemption is that it provides applicants with two opportunities to be selected for the H-1B visa. If you are not selected in the standard cap, your application will be entered into the H-1B master’s pool for the next chance to be chosen. This gives applicants with advanced degrees a better chance of having their H-1B visa approved compared to those who only have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, the H-1B master’s cap usually receives fewer applications, this will generally improve your chances of being selected.

For you to qualify for the H-1B master’s degree exemption, there are two main requirements:

  1. You must have earned a master’s degree from an institution accredited by a nationally recognized agency.
  2. The U.S. institution should also be public or non-profit in nature.

Some formally recognized accrediting organizations include:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools

You can find a complete list of accreditation programs in the United States on the Department of Education’s website.

So, if the institution where you received your degree is unaccredited or happens to be a for-profit university, your petition will be denied. Please note that you’re also subject to all the other H-1B requirements.

Likewise, if you failed to meet that requirement and USCIS denied your petition, you also won’t be eligible to count towards the regular (65,000) cap. For that reason, it’s crucial to ensure you meet the statutory requirements before filing. Failure to do so only causes delays and additional frustration.

Ineligible Institutions for H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption

Don’t assume all U.S.-based institutions are accredited; it may lead you astray. The University of Northern Virginia, once accredited, lost its accreditation due to violations and was shut down by the government in 2013. Graduates couldn’t file under the H-1B master’s cap but could under the regular H-1B quota. Another common issue is schools not being public or non-profit; proprietary schools, being for-profit, aren’t eligible under the criteria.

If you were selected in the 2024-25 H-1B visa lottery, contact VisaNation attorneys for filing your H-1B petition.

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Registration Process for H-1B Master’s Quota

The registration window is from noon E.S.T. on March 6 through noon E.S.T. on March 22, 2024. Employers and their attorneys/representatives can create new accounts on the new USCIS online system for H-1B lottery registrations beginning at noon E.S.T. on February 28, 2024. Submitting a registration early or late in that time frame does not help or hurt your chances.

  1. If the H-1B quota candidate pool—including master’s quota eligible registrations—exceeds 65,000, then a random computer lottery selects 65,000 registrations.
  2. USCIS then identifies H-1B master’s cap-eligible registrations from the pool of all registrations rejected in the regular cap lottery. Finally, if there are more than 20,000 master’s cap-eligible applications, USCIS runs a second computer-generated lottery to select 20,000 registrations from the master’s pool.
  3. USCIS then sends letters to individuals whose registrations are selected. These sponsors will then file I-129 petitions on behalf of their beneficiaries.
  4. Those registrations not selected in the regular or master’s quota will be designated as “not selected” in the online portal. USCIS will give no refund for the registration fee.
  5. Selected petitioners will receive their USCIS case number to stay up-to-date on H-1B processing times.

On March 31, 2024, the USCIS plans to release the lottery results. It will do this by changing the status of your online registration to one of four statuses:

Selected: This means that USCIS chose your registration in the lottery, and your sponsor can submit a petition.

Denied: If your sponsor submitted more than one registration on your behalf, then all of that sponsor’s registrations for you will be disqualified and subsequently rejected.

Not Selected: The USCIS will conduct the lottery after March 25 and select the required registrations for the regular cap and the advanced exemption. Any not selected will remain in the “Submitted” status until the end of the fiscal year. If the USCIS needs to fill more spaces throughout the remaining six months, it will draw from this pool. Otherwise, all unselected petitions will change to “Not Selected.”

Submitted: This just means that the USCIS has received your registration. If your petition is not selected but also not denied, it will remain in “Submitted” status until October 1st. After which, it will change to “Not Selected.”

Selection Process for H-1B Master’s Quota

H-B petitioners need to register their alien beneficiaries before the opening of the lottery window. Here is how it will work:

  1. Before the H-1B filing window, employers must register their beneficiaries with the USCIS online system.
  2. The USCIS will then use the lottery system to select registered beneficiaries.
  3. The petitioners whose beneficiaries were selected will then file petitions.

According to USCIS, this method expedites the process because it avoids having to sift through tens of thousands of petitions every year, making the filing process less expensive for employers.

All registrations—including H-1B master’s quota eligible registrations—are up for selection in the regular cap. Those registrations with advanced degree designations not selected in the regular cap will be put into the H-1B master’s cap afterward. According to USCIS, ordering the lottery this way increases the chances of selecting H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher by up to 16%.

After the lottery selection, USCIS will notify employers if their registration was chosen, and the subsequent filing steps will take place. The employer will need to file the complete H-1B petition, and the entire package of documents will be sent to the designated service center, where it will then be rejected or approved. Each petition is given a USCIS case number and a tracking identifier.

h1b visa lottery timeline 2024-2025

Reason for H-1B Masters Denial

If your H-1B master’s petition is rejected, then you may simply need to fix the error and refile the petition next season if your registration is selected again. However, if your petition is denied, you may be able to file a legal motion.

However, if your petition is denied, you may be able to file a legal motion. There are two main types of these motions:

  • Motion to reopen: File this motion if you have new evidence to bring to the table that might change the evaluating officer’s mind.
  • Motion to reconsider: Used when you and your immigration lawyer believe that the evaluating officer was wrong in their assessment of your case.

Because they are both legally delicate matters, neither of these should be attempted without the help of an experienced immigration attorney. As an aside, you will likely receive an H-1B denial letter that prohibits any appeals to a third party.

If you were selected in the 2024-25 H-1B visa lottery, contact VisaNation attorneys for filing your H-1B petition.

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Additionally, a second registration cannot be submitted for the same beneficiary. A single sponsor can only submit one registration for each beneficiary in any given fiscal year. If this rule is violated, all registrations for the beneficiary filed by the guilty sponsor will be denied.

However, keep in mind that a beneficiary can have multiple registrations filed on their behalf by different sponsors. Also, a single sponsor can submit registrations for various beneficiaries.

Furthermore, the rate of denials and RFEs have skyrocketed over the past several years. With such a short window for submitting registrations and filing subsequent petitions, it is imperative to ensure that necessary supporting documents and fees are correctly filed along with the petition. With other visas, a small mistake might delay your visa by a few weeks or months. However, with the time constraints placed on the H-1B, a small error may cause you to have to wait until the next fiscal year to try again.

H-1B Master’s Cap FAQs

Below you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the master’s cap in the H-1B lottery process:

Will premium processing help my case?

Premium processing, the optional service provided by the USCIS that expedites your petition’s processing time to just 15 calendar days for an additional fee, does not increase the probability that your petition will be approved if your registration is selected in the lottery. Instead, it only serves to shorten your petition’s processing time. The service fee for premium processing for H-1B season 2024-2025 is $2,805.

Does the master’s exemption exempt me from the cap?

No. The word exemption is only used to describe an exception. If your registration is filed in the H-1B master’s cap, it will still be subjected to the regular and the master’s lottery. However, it does give your registration two opportunities to be selected.

Do I have to register before the H-1B cap?

Yes, all employers who plan on filing petitions on behalf of H-1B beneficiaries will have to register. However, if they are picked in the lottery, only then will they file a petition.

Do I have to file a petition in the lottery this year?

Sponsors no longer submit petitions to enter the lottery. Instead, beneficiaries must be registered, and the USCIS will select registrations. Therefore, you only need to file a petition if USCIS selected your beneficiary’s registration in the lottery.

If you were selected in the 2024-25 H-1B visa lottery, contact VisaNation attorneys for filing your H-1B petition.

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Will there be registration every year?

Theoretically, yes. However, the USCIS reserves the ability to suspend the registration process for any year if they encounter technical difficulties. We will keep you apprised of any suspensions.

How does the H-1B master’s cap order increase my chances of selection?

Your master’s registration will be entered with all other registrations into the regular cap first. This means that USCIS will select some master’s registrations in the regular cap without entering the H-1B master’s cap. All unselected master’s registrations will be entered into the master’s lottery, which will have a smaller amount of competition because some master’s registrations had already been chosen in the regular cap.

This is understandably confusing, so we always encourage you to work with your immigration attorney to make an educated decision about your case.

Where can I find an H-1B sponsor?

If you do not have an H-1B sponsor, databases are available to find a suitable one. Disclaimer: We do not take ownership or responsibility for the information found on H-1B sponsor sites. This site allows you to filter your search by visa job title, NAICS industry, work city, and visa rank. The information on that visa sponsor database is based on LCAs and Labor Certifications. Another good place to search for qualified H-1B jobs is at U.S. academic institutions because they’re not subject to annual cap restrictions.

What is the prevailing wage?

The prevailing wage, provided by the Department of Labor under the Occupational Employment Statistics program, is the average wage for employees who perform the same (or similar) jobs in the same area. The prevailing wage is indicated on the Labor Certification Application. In addition, most employment visas, including the H-1B visa, require by law the employer to pay their alien employees this wage as the minimum. Therefore, the DOL will determine the prevailing wage when your employer files for a Labor Certification Application.

Are my chances better as an MBA graduate?

Having an MBA instead of any other type of advanced degree does not directly help your chances during the H-1B master’s cap. However, getting an H-1B for MBA graduates might make you more qualified for the position you’re applying for and will likely help your chances of having your petition approved if your registration is selected in the master’s cap or the regular cap.

What documents/info are required for the H-1B registration?

You’ll need to provide the following information/supporting documents:

  • Company’s name
  • Employer’s FEIN (identification number)
  • Business address
  • Employers contact information
  • Employer’s lawyer contact info

What are all the H-1B fees paid to USCIS?

Employers only need to pay the registration fee to enter the lottery. However, should their employee’s registration be selected in the lottery, then they will also be responsible for VisaNation attorney fees.

What is consular processing?

Consular processing is for H-1B petitioners who have been selected in the lottery and have an approved complete H-1B package but live outside of the United States. Note that if this is your case, you will need to make an appointment at the U.S. consulate/embassy in your home country and bring with you the paid DS-160 nonimmigrant application, receipt that you paid the $190 cost for this form, and be ready to answer any questions the consular officer may ask you. For example, you may be asked about your job, employer, qualifications, work history, and travel history at the interview. If you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, always be honest, and it’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know,” if you’re unsure.

Why was my Labor Condition Application delayed?

In the past, we’ve seen cases where the iCert visa portal didn’t recognize an employer or company’s FEIN number. Typically, this occurs if there hasn’t been a pre-verification before completing the Labor Condition Application. It’s best to always go through a qualified immigration lawyer to ensure no unnecessary delays like this occur.

How do I submit a petition?

It’s always best to go through the approved delivery method specified for your petition. Options like USPCS, FedEx, UPS, or another bonded service are generally good routes. Do not deliver your petition by hand or another unconventional way, or you risk your petition not being correctly processed. Again, your lawyer can provide the best instructions for delivery methods.

What are the types of RFEs?

An RFE  is sent by USCIS indicating that the evaluating officer needs more documents or evidence to make a clear decision. An RFE is not an immediate denial, so you still have a chance of getting an approval. Therefore, it’s essential to respond to the RFE promptly and within the time frame you’re given. The three types of ways to respond to a request for evidence are as follows:

  • Full response: This type includes all USCIS’ requested evidence.
  • Partial response:  These tend to be the typical responses. You submit some of the evidence USCIS has asked for but not all of it, either because you do not wish to submit it all or simply do not have the requested evidence.
  • No response: You can always withdraw your application.

With any RFE you receive, always thoroughly review it with your attorney to decide the best course of action. Sometimes USCIS may have doubts about your employer, your relationship with the company, and your credentials, among other things. Any response you send to USCIS should support any doubts or issues concerning your case.

I just lost my H-1B status, now what do I do?

If you lost your H-1B job, you are granted a 60-day grace period that starts on the first day of your unemployment. You’re given this grace period so you can either find a new sponsor, switch to another visa, or get your affairs ready to leave the United States.

Can my spouse get a visa?

Yes, you’re spouse can be eligible for an H-4 visa. Learn about the difference between an H-4 and EAD in this post.

What other options do I have if I don’t qualify for the 2024-2025 H-1B advanced degree exemption or H-1B lottery?

If you’ve reviewed all the criteria above and find that you are not eligible for the H-1B visa for 2024-2025, you do have other options apart from the H-1B master’s cap and regular lottery pool. For example, the L-1B visa, like the H-1B, is also a nonimmigrant visa. It allows employers who have offices both in the United States and overseas to transfer employees from their overseas offices to those in the U.S. for up to five years. Another option is the J-1 visa, intended for government-approved programs for positions like nannies, students, counselors, doctors, etc.

How VisaNation Law Group Can Help 

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