The H-1B visa is the “workhorse” of nonimmigrant visa classifications, allowing IT professionals, accountants, architects, business/operations analysts, designers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, researchers, teachers, and many other professionals to work in the United States.
The H-1B lottery is held each year for those employed in a specialty occupation role (a position that requires a bachelor's or higher degree in a related academic field) to provide for the opportunity to work in H-1B status. The reason for the lottery is to provide the government a mechanism to randomly allocate the limited number (85,000) of H-1B visas to the approximately 300,000 annual lottery registrants. In 2021, there was a 27.8 percent chance of securing a selection through the H-1B lottery. Given this reality, it is wise to register for the H-1B lottery at the first opportunity, notwithstanding the fact that the employee’s work authorization may not expire for two years or more.
The H-1B visa lottery works as follows: Using an online registration system, companies will enter their employees in a lottery that will be held between March 1 – 18. Applicants will be selected at the end of March. There will then be a 90-day window for employers to file any H-1B petitions for employees selected in the H-1B lottery.
Consider the following foreign national employees: (1) employees who were not selected in previous lotteries; (2) employees who are currently working abroad; (3) employees in F-1 student statuses using OPT, STEM OPT, or CPT work authorization; (4) employees in TN, E-3, or a dependent to a principal visa holder (H-4, L-2, E-3D, etc.) working on EAD; and finally, (5) employees who you may consider for green card sponsorship in the future.
H-1B Registration Timeline:
- February: Work with legal team, company stakeholders, and foreign national candidates to ensure the strongest possible case strategy.
- February 21: Petitioners and registrants can begin creating H-1B registrant accounts.
- March 1 – 18: H-1B registration period whereby registrants can complete and submit for the H-1B lottery.
- March 31: Date by which USCIS intends to notify selected registrants.
- October 1: The earliest possible start date for a successful H-1B petition (if your registration was selected and the petition approved).
If you have questions about the H-1B lottery process, please reach out to Ken Robinson or the Ice Miller Labor, Employment and Immigration lawyer you regularly work with.