What are the chances of winning the H1B lottery this year?

Last year, the USCIS received ~233K applications for only 85K H1B available, and the chances of winning the H1B lottery with 1, 2, or 3 H1B petitions were:

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Probability of winning the H1B lottery for FY2016 with 1, 2, and 3 H1B petitions for the regular and advanced degree pools.

How many H1B petitions can be expected for FY2017, and what are the chances of winning the lottery?

In order to get a reasonable prediction, let’s first take a look at the factors influencing the number of H1B petitions.

Factors likely to increase the number of H1B petitions:

  • ~150K applicants lost the H1B lottery last year. If we assume that half of these will try again this year, then we will have 75K H1B petitions from applicants who did win the lottery last year
  • US economy: the US economy is doing very well, with the unemployment rate lower than last year’s and job opportunities continuing to grow.
  • Increasing number of international students in the US: there are ~300K international graduate students and ~100K international students on OPT. This large number of students could be seeking H1B this year.

Factors likely to decrease the number of H1B petitions:

  • Increase in H1B fee: The H1B fee was increased by $4,000 for employers who fall under the category of having more than 50 employees and more than 50% of non-immigrant workers.
  • H4 visa EAD rule: The rule that was passed in May 2015 allows certain H4 visa holders to obtain work authorization. This will significantly decrease the number of H4 holders seeking H1B this year.

Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to expect that we will no less than 230K H1B petitions this year. Therefore, your chances of winning the lottery will be the same or worse than last year.

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