Published: 01st August 2021
What the FAQ: What is the lottery system to win a H1B visa in the USA? How does it work?
Three-fourths of the applications for the US H1B visa are Indians. The USCIS is conducting a second lottery to fill the slots. What does this mean for the aspirations of the Indian applicants?
The H1B is a non-immigrant visa offered by the United States that is harnessed by thousands of Indians every year to move to and work in the United States. Issued for an initial period of three years, it can be extended for another three years at best. Every year, the US is mandated to issue a set number of H1B visas. This year, the US Congress had mandated 65,000 regular H1B visas, and 20,000 US advanced degree visas for the fiscal year 2022. A random selection process was carried out in April to fill the slots from among the 3.08 lakh petitions, but they apparently fell short of the required number, to make up for which a second lottery was announced this year.
How does the lottery system work?
The system was launched by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in 2007 to meet the cap for the H1B visas. In simple terms, it is a computer-based random selection of applications to fill the H1B slots. It hasn’t been used every year since then though. It is used only when the number of applications overshoots the number of slots, which didn’t happen for four years after 2019.
How random is this “random selection process?”
The major differentiation happens right in the application process between workers with a masters degree, and workers with a bachelor's degree. Before 2020, the rule said that the algorithm would run first on the masters applicants to fill the 20,000 advanced degree visas. Those not selected here would be pooled with the regular applicants, and from among that group, the rest of the 65,000 slots would be filled up. However, from 2020, that process was reversed to give greater preference to the masters applicants. The algorithm is first run on a combined pool of applicants, and 65,000 regular slots are filled. Then, from the unselected masters applicants, the 20,000 advanced degree slots are filled. It is estimated that a masters degree earns 19 per cent more in the US, and they are also said to be more skilled and qualified. Thus, the bias.
How does one apply for the second lottery?
Before this year, applications would happen on paper at the respective US Embassies in the countries. These were brought exclusively online for the applications for 2022. However, applications for the second lottery are not available online. The candidates must do it on paper at the US Embassy. Applications are to be filed by US-based companies that wish to bring their employees to the country. Employees can only submit the relevant documents to their employers. The second lottery will only count potential applicants who have already registered with the USCIS on or before July 28. The application process will begin for the registered candidates from August 2 and end on November 3.