In order to understand the H-1B visa lottery, you should first know what the H-1B visa is. It is a temporary work visa granted to foreign nationals by the Government of the United States of America. It is considered to be a visa issued for specialty occupations. The worker’s employer should apply for the visa on his or her behalf. The visa is provided based on the assumption that the work that the employee will perform requires theoretical and practical application of very specific knowledge. The occupations that are considered include engineering, information technology, and science. All H-1B visa applications are subject to a lottery system.
H-1B Visa Lottery – FY2019
The US Government Department responsible for issuing visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, informs people through its website regarding the status of the visa lottery. Each year, there is a cap for the maximum number of visas that can be issued. This cap is mandated by the US Congress that has to be adhered to.
Since the US receives a number of petitions each year for the H-1B visa, the lottery system is used to pick which petitions get considered. The cap for the H-1B category as of FY19 is 65,000. But, out of this, since the US has an agreement with Chile and Singapore, those two countries receive up to 6,800 visas out of those 65,000. Even if some of those are unused, they are not made available for people from the rest of the world, instead those unused visas are only available the next year. Therefore, the actual number of available visas for Indians or other nationals wishing to apply for a H-1B is lesser.
What happens after the petitions have been received?
Once the petitions have been received by the last date for application, the department will not process the remaining ones. The remainder will be rejected and the filing fees will be returned to the applicants. For FY2019, the number of eligible petitions considered were 94,213 for the regular cap and 95,885 for the Master’s exemption. These numbers were reached by 6 April 2018 even though the department began accepting petitions only from 2 April 2018.
Is the number of petitions restricted strictly to 65,000?
Yes, but there are a number of exemptions to this. H-1B workers who work in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are exempt from the cap, as are workers in Guam. This is subject to the condition that their employers file petitions for their visas by the end of December 2019. Also, only fresh applications will be subjected to the cap. For the benefit of those H-1B workers already in the US, petitions for the following will be entertained without being considered towards the cap:
- Extensions of existing visas
- Change in employers and/or employment conditions
- Permission to work in a concurrent, second position that will also fall under the same visa category
There is also something called the Master’s cap or the exemption granted for advanced degrees. This includes people who have completed their Master’s degrees in the US and have applied for a work visa. The applications received from these people will not count towards the regular cap. The number of such applications that can be received is capped at 20,000.
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