Each fiscal year, which runs from October 1 to September 30, there are 65,000 H-1B visas available plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas for individuals who hold an advanced degree from a U.S. university. The H-1B visa is for aliens in “specialty occupations.” A specialty occupation is defined as an occupation which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and which requires the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. Because there is more demand for H-1B visas than the 85,000 visas available, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts a lottery to determine who can file an H-1B petition.
Not all H-1B petitions are subject to the cap and the annual lottery. If an individual currently holds an H-1B, he or she is exempt from the cap. Certain types of employers, such as universities and hospitals affiliated with universities to provide training, are also exempt from the cap.
The USCIS uses an electronic registration for the lottery. The electronic registration for this year’s lottery will open on noon on March 1. The registration will close on March 18 at noon. The USCIS will conduct the random selection and notify registrants if selected by March 31.
Employers should evaluate and identify whether they have employees or potential hires who should be registered for the lottery. For example, F-1 aliens who are working under Optional Practical Training and an employment authorization document (EAD), Canadian or Mexican workers in TN status, L-2 or E-2 spouses working under an EAD, L-1B specialized knowledge employees who may be nearing the limit of their stay, or employees who are pursuing permanent residence and need the flexibility the H-1B offers may all be candidates for registration in this year’s lottery.
The USCIS may conduct additional random selections in the summer if the allotment of H-1B visas remain available. If selected in the lottery, the employer will have ninety days to submit an H-1B petition with the USCIS. An approved H-1B petition will have an effective date on or after October 1, 2022.
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