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Possible Changes to 2024 H-1B Visa Lottery

photo of lottery balls

Jan 16, 2024

Categories Business Immigration Tags: changes, H1-b, H1-B visa, immigration, Lottery

The H-1B visa season is starting for us, and there are a few potential changes that may affect how this year’s lottery goes.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services holds a lottery when there are more applicants for H-1B visas than there are available visas—65,000 plus 20,000 for potential employees who graduated with a Masters or PhD degree from an American institution of higher learning. There have been more applicants than visas for so long that we simply refer to it and the H-1B visa lottery, and applicants can enter it during a two-week window that starts April 1, 2024.

Last year, 780,884 applications were received, up 61 percent from the 483,927 received the year before. It will be challenging again this year, but one change proposed October 23, 2023 should help thin the pool a bit.

H-1B visas are used by employers to bring specialized talent to the U.S. to work—often in STEM fields—so the applications come from potential employers, not employees. Last year, there were enough instances of companies filing multiple applications for the same person that the government decided that this year all the applications for one employee will be grouped together and treated as a single application. That employee will choose which company to work for if selected during the lottery.

Industry has been fairly receptive to that change and it is likely to be adopted. The future of other proposals is murkier since they’re related to definitions—of “U.S. Employer” and “Specialty Occupation,” for instance—it’s not clear if they’ll be implemented and how they would affect this year’s H-1B visa lottery if they are. The Trump administration tried to require that potential employees have advanced degrees “directly related” to the application’s “Specialty Occupation,” but that change was rejected in 2020 for procedural reasons.

The general understanding at the time was that the move was intentionally and unnecessarily restrictive. Many H-1B visa holders and employees in STEM fields have degrees in related and relevant fields, but not necessarily in one that might be considered “directly related” by adjudicators.

We’ll track these changes, but employers and employees should start strategizing H-1B applications now with these potential changes in mind. They should also be aware of the odds and consider back-up plans should the H-1B visa lottery not work in their favor. It’s a good idea to consult an immigration attorney with experience in employment-related immigration and H-1B visas for help

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash.

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