Update: Get the latest updates for the H1B Lottery 2018
Just like in the past few years, USCIS conducted another H1B Lottery for fiscal year 2017, which is a a random lottery to determine who will get one of the 85,000 H1B visas available each year to foreign skilled workers. USCIS announced this week in a post that it received more than 85k applications in the first 5 business days and that a random H1B lottery 2017 will be conducted.
Bad but expected news for all your applicants, especially those who have been trying multiple times in a row.
The fate of all H1B applicants will be decided by a random lottery this year
Latest Update: 5/9:
The H1B Lottery 2017 is rolling. Premium processing is almost over and law firms started receiving regular processing receipts.
- April 11: Started receiving premium processing receipts
- Numerous law firms confirmed that they started receiving receipts from Vermont for premium processing cases
- April 13: Receipts from California Processing Center
- The first receipts for premium processing from California started to be sent out via email. Still no update on the total number of applications received.
- April 13: 236,000 Applications received USCIS confirmed here the number of total applications as well as the latest day that PP will begin.
- April 13 Premium processing will begin no later than May 16
- that means if you don’t get a receipt by that date and you filed under premium processing, you were not selected in the lottery
- April 19: Lawyers started to receive paper based receipts for regular processing cases.
- April 20: Several law firms stopped receiving Premium Processing receipt notices via email. However, others are still receiving email receipts for PP. Rumors say that Fragomen and BAL are among the law firms still receiving email receipts. Don’t give up hope yet for the H1B Lottery 217.
- April 22: USCIS changed the date to start processing premium receipts to May 12. That means you have until May 12 to receive a PP receipt. If you don’t get a receipt notice by then, you did not get selected in the H1B Lottery 2017. This was announced here.
- May 2: USCIS announced that they completed the data entry for all the H1B petitions that were selected in the lottery. Based on previous years experience, your attorney should be getting your Regular processing receipt notice in the next 10 days. If you don’t receive it by May 13, chances that you got selected are very slim. However, you can only know for sure that you did not get selected when you receive the physical package returned in the mail, which typically happens in June and July.
- May 9: As expected, law firms continue to receive Regular processing receipts from both CA and VT centers. They should continue to receive receipts until end of this week. If your attorney did not receive the your RP receipt by end of this week, you should seriously start thinking about H1B plan B options.
There are probably many questions in your head, which I will answer in this blog:
- How many applications were received?
- What are my chances of winning?
- How many Masters Cap applications were received?
- What exactly is the process?
- When will I be notified?
- What to do if I did not get selected?
Bookmark this page, as I will update it as we receive new updates and insights from USCIS and our attorneys.
What is the H1B Lottery 2017 and how does it work?
The H1B Lottery is a random lottery conducted on all applications the USCIS received in the first 5 business days, if the number exceeds the annual mandated cap of 85k applications. There US government has an annual cap of 85,ooo H1B visas each year. if the USCIS received more than the annual cap, there will be a random lottery to ensure a fair allocation of all US H1B visas.
The H1B season starts on April 1 every year and you cannot send in your application before that date. That means that all applications received before that day will be rejected. Because of that everybody and their mother submits an H1B application on April 1 every year. The result: way too any applications and the need for a lottery. This gets worse when the economy is good an more companies are hiring, and when too many people file multiple H1B applications.
The process is as follows:
- USCIS opens the annual H1B application window on April 1 and keeps it open until it reaches the annual cap of 85,000 visas. – DONE on April 1
- If the USCIS receives more applications than the annual cap it stops accepting H1B applications. This happened effective on April 7 (when USCIS announced there will be an H1B lottery) – DONE on April 7
- USCIS then takes a few days to conduct the random lottery and will announce when the lottery was conducted. At that time it will also announce how many application it received. This did not happen of today. Usually we will know the week after it announced that the cap was reached. DONE on April 11
- After the lottery is done USCIS will start sending out receipt notices to those lucky enough to be selected and to those who filed their petition under premium processing. Receipt notices will be send to your lawyer via email. If you filed under premium processing and did not receive your receipt by the end of April, chances are you did not get selected. In Progress (started on 4/11) – until May 16
- USCIS will continue sending our paper based H1B receipt notices for those who filed under regular processing. This process can take quite some time due to the physical nature of the process (print receipts, send via mail, …).Based on the past years experience, attorneys receive paper notices until mid-May. After mid-May, it is very unlikely that your RP petition for selected. In Progress – started April 15
- USCIS will start sending rejection notices to all those who did not get selected. This is the last step and starts somewhere at the end of June and can go all the ay until beginning of August. In Progress – started May 2
Based on the above, it can take up until the end of June until you know that you have not been selected, if you did not file under premium processing!
“… It can take up until end of June until you know that you have not been selected …”
What is the Masters Cap and what are my chances of winning?
Out of the 85,000 H1B visa available each year, 20,000 are set aside for applicants who have earned a US Master’s degree or higher. The degree must be from an accredited US university. If you have a a degree from a US university your chances of winning are higher. Why? Because you are competing with fewer people. The way it works is as follows:
- USCIS conducts a separate H1B lottery for applicants with advanced degrees first (20k cap per year)
- Everybody who did not get selected in this Master Cap lottery then moves on to the general pool and has another chance of winning the lottery. You now compete with the rest of the world for the remaining 65k of available US visas.
If you have a US Masters degree your chances of winning the lottery are much higher because you are competing with fewer people
If you don’t have an advanced degree but would like one to improve your chances, here are some cheap and fast ways how you can get a US masters degree to increase your chances to work in the US!
How many H1B Applications were received under the Masters quota?
This will be published much later in the process. Last year it was ~50K, i.e. more than twice as many as available slots. We don’t know yet how many masters vs. regular were present in the H1B Lottery 2017.
Read my other post about your chances of winning the lottery with advanced degree.
What is premium processing and what are the benefits?
For a fee of $1,250 you can pay for premium processing. Premium processing guarantees an adjudication within 15 days of receiving the H1B application. Because the USCIS set itself an SLA, it will process all premium processing applications first. And because it has such a tight deadline, all processing and notifications will happen electronically, i.e. your lawyer will receive an email confirmation when you got selected in the lottery.
You will typically get notified within the first 3 weeks after the H1B lottery has been conducted. That means you will know by the end of April if you have been selected in the lottery.
If you did not file under premium processing, you have to wait until end of June, because you will be waiting for a paper based receipt notice, which takes time to issue and to mail.
“If you filed under Premium Processing you will know by the end of April if you got selected”
One thing to remember is that it does not increase your chances of winning the lottery. The lottery is completely random and is independent of you filing under premium processing.
Update: In the H1B Lottery 2017, USCIS announced that it will begin processing premium processing applications no later than May 16, 2016.
When will I know if I got selected in the H1B Lottery 2017?
This is the general processing order priority of H1B applications in the H1B Lottery 2017:
- Premium Processing Masters ap – ETA end of April
- Premium Processing Regular Cap – ETA end of April
- Regular Processing Masters Cap – ETA End of June
- Regular Processing regular Cap – ETA End of June
There will likely be overlap between regular and masters cap so don’t get discouraged if your friends already got notified and you didn’t. The processing time depends on processing center and other factors difficult to predict.
The first receipt notices will go out as soon as the lottery is conducted and they will go out to folks who filed under premium processing.
“You might already know as soon as next week if you got selected in the H1B Lottery”
How do I know if I got selected?
There are three main signals and I will explain all of them below:
- Your lawyer receives a receipt notice
- Your check with the processing fee got cashed
- Your SEVIS status has changed (if you are on F1)
Let’s dig into each of them.
The most obvious one is receiving a receipt notice. An example of an email and paper based receipt notice are in the following picture. If you receive the receipt notice that means that you got selected.
Keep in mind that only your lawyer will receive the notice. You will never receive it personally, because it is the company who owns your H1B petition.
The second signal is that you check got cashed. If your petition was selected USCIS will go ahead and cash your check. So if you or your company noticed that your check was cashed, you were selected in the lottery.
The final one applies to all F1 students who applied for a change of status. If you lottery was selected and processed your SEVIS status will change to ‘COS-approved’. You can reach out to your DOS o confirm whether a change in the SEVIS record has happened , and if so, it means you were selected.
The above processes happen all at different times and do not happen all at once. They are shifted in time.
“You will know that you were selected if you receive a receipt notice, you cash got cashed, or if your SEVIS status changed if you are currently on F1”
What if I don’t get selected?
if you don’t get selected, not all hope is lost. You can try again next year or follow any of the H1B alternatives that I have outlined of you.
- Wait for next week to confirm exact application numbers and for the H1B lottery 2017 to happen –> Done on April 11, 2016
- Wait if you receive a notification from USCIS
- Work on your Plan B in case you did not get selected in the H1B lottery.
Good luck! Post any questions you have below!