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What to Expect in With the FY2016 H1B Visa Lottery

As you probably know, Congress allocates 65,000 H-1B visas every fiscal year plus an additional 20,000 visas for beneficiaries who received a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The window for petitioners/employer to file an H-1B petition this fiscal year is April 1, 2016 and, assuming that the number of applications exceeds the quota, USCIS will stop accepting any petitions filed five days after April 1st. Given that the quota has been exceeded by an increasingly large number over the past several years, it is almost a guarantee that this year’s H-1B quota will be met within the first few days of April 1st. Assuming that your petition was one of the lucky ones selected in the draw, and assuming your petition is actually approved by USCIS, the earliest the beneficiary will be able to start working in H-1B status is October 1, 2016.

What to do to prepare for an H-1B filing?

You can do several things in advance to ensure a timely H-1B submission on April 1st:

  • The employer and employee should have a discussion about sponsorship and the proposed position (i.e., title, duties, salary, etc.)
  • The employee should obtain a copy of their diploma, transcript, or letter confirming completion of courses towards the degree
  • Ask your lawyer how to have the employer’s FEIN verified in advance
  • If the employee is currently on OPT, check to see if he or she is covered under the “Cap Gap”

Filing an H-1B petition on April 1st does not guarantee that your application will make the lottery. While logic would dictate that USCIS accepts cases in the order they were received, that is not the case. In fact, if the quota is met within five days, the USCIS will do a random draw of all applications received and only select 65,000 + 20,000 (master’s cap) for further processing. So if your petition was the first one submitted, it could still not be selected in the lottery while the last petition submitted on the last day is selected.

To learn more about the H-1B visa lottery process, feel free to contact us at (310) 591-8200.