International Students Immigration Blog

4 Things You Should Know Before H-1B Lottery Result Is Out

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The H-1B visa lottery for Fiscal Year 2025 is almost here, starting in about a month. While it's the job of employers to register on the USCIS website before we find out who gets picked, there's important things you, as someone hoping to stay in the U.S. in longer term, should know too. This is a big step for many people's dreams of living and working in America, and there's more to it than just waiting for the H-1B lottery results. Here are 4 key things you need to keep in mind if you're planning to apply for an H-1B visa.

Table of Contents

Understand the Process and Timeline

Employers must first register potential employees between March 6th and March 22nd . Following this, the USCIS conducts the lottery in early April to select the petitions that will be considered for the H-1B visa cap. Knowing these dates and how the process works is crucial for both you and your sponsoring employer to ensure everything is submitted accurately and on time.

H-1B timeline

 There are 6 important dates and time you should remember for this coming H-1B lottery:

  • Feb 28: Employers create a USCIS online account

  • March 6: H-1B registration opens

  • March 22: H-1B registration closes

  • March 31: USCIS notifies H-1B winners

  • April 1: H-1B petition submission begins

  • Oct 1: H-1B start date

The lottery randomly selects enough petitions to meet the annual H-1B visa cap. This includes:

  • 65,000 visas for candidates with a bachelor's degree or higher

  • 20,000 visas for those with a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution

On January 30, 2024, USCIS announced changes to the H-1B lottery for fiscal year 2025, introducing a one-registration-per-person rule to prevent multiple filing abuse. According to our analysis, under "one-registration-per-person rule", the selection probability for bachelor's degree holders is 26.67%, and for advanced degree holders (master's and above), it's 40%

Please note that after your employer or attorney submits your H-1B petition, you will not receive a notification from the USCIS system. To confirm that your petition has been successfully submitted, you can ask your employer to provide you with a screenshot.

Employers of H-1B winners can submit petition materials starting from April 1, you will receive a formal approval or denial notice for your petition between May and August from USCIS.

Eligibility and Documentation

The H-1B visa is designed for specialty occupations that require a bachelor's degree or higher in the specific field of employment. Ensure that your educational qualifications and job offer meet these criteria.

Have all your documentation ready in advance, pay attention to below:

  • Valid passport. Passport must be valid during lottery registration and H1B application stages.

  • If passport expires between these stages, submit both the original and new passport's personal information pages with the H1B application.

  • Beneficiaries with multiple unaffiliated employers must use the same passport information for each registration.

    • Using multiple passports for registrations will result in USCIS rejecting and revoking all H1B applications!

If selected in the lottery by multiple employers, all can submit an H-1B application for the beneficiary.

Plan for Your Visa Status if Not Selected

The reality of the H-1B lottery system is that not everyone will be selected due to the 85k cap on the number of visas issued each year. It's important to mentally and emotionally prepare for this possibility and consider alternative plans if your visa status expire soon after the H-1B lottery.

These could include looking into other visa categories:

Continue F1 work authorization- STEM OPT extension
  • Eligibility: Available for F1 students who have completed degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields.

  • Duration: Offers an additional 24 months of work authorization beyond the initial 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT), allowing for up to 36 months of work in total in your field of study.

  • Advantages: Smooth transition from F1 OPT status.

Continue F1 work authorization- Day 1 CPT
  • Eligibility: Aimed at F1 students enrolled in certain academic programs (Day 1 CPT Universities) that require immediate participation in Curricular Practical Training (CPT) from day 1 of the curriculum.

  • Duration: Can be utilized from the first day of the program, allowing to continue your previous F1 work authorization during your studies.

  • Advantages: Enables students to continue their previous work while completing their academic program at affordable tuition.

    Interested in extending your F1 work authorization with Day 1 CPT? Contact us for free and customized consultation!
L1 visa
  • Eligibility: Designed for intra-company transferees who have been employed by a multinational company outside the US for at least one continuous year within the past three years and are being transferred back to the US to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity.

  • Duration: Up to 5 years for specialized knowledge employees (L1B) and up to 7 years for managers and executives (L1A).

  • Advantages: Opportunities to gain work and life experience outside the US.

O1 Visa
  • Eligibility: Available to individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have demonstrated a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

  • Duration: Initially granted for up to 3 years, with the possibility to extend in 1-year increments for ongoing projects or activities.

  • Advantages: Provides a flexible option for highly talented individuals to work in their expertise area in the US, without the limitations of the H-1B cap.

Plan for Your Visa Status if Selected

If your H-1B case is selected and the petition is approved after the lottery, your H-1B status will likely begin on October 1st when the new fiscal year starts. If you are on F1 OPT status and your OPT is going to expire soon, be sure to have your visa ahead:

  • If your OPT is about to expire and you are selected and file for an H-1B before it expires, you automatically enter the cap-gap period, extending your F1 work authorization until the H-1B starts on October 1.

  • If your OPT expires and you are selected for an H-1B during the grace period (e.g., in a second H-1B lottery) and file for an H-1B before the grace period ends, you automatically enter the cap-gap period, allowing you to stay in the U.S., but you can only work starting from October 1.

  • If your OPT expires and you are selected for an H-1B during the grace period but do not file for an H-1B before the grace period ends, you must leave the U.S. immediately after the grace period ends and can re-enter to start working once the H-1B takes effect.

Navy Modern Timeline Diagram Graph

To address gaps in work authorization between OPT expiration and H-1B start, consider enrolling in a Day 1 CPT program to continue working. Contact us for more details and available school options to your case.

Conclusion

Navigating the H-1B visa lottery process requires timely preparation, awareness of critical timelines, and an understanding of alternative visa options. For Fiscal Year 2025, the USCIS's introduction of a one-registration-per-person rule aims to streamline the process and increase fairness. However, not all applicants will be selected due to the visa cap, making it essential for candidates to prepare alternative plans. Options like the STEM OPT extension, Day 1 CPT, L1, and O1 visas offer viable pathways to maintain legal status and employment in the U.S. if not selected. For those who are selected, understanding the cap-gap extension and options for bridging gaps in work authorization is crucial. It's advisable to consult with immigration professionals to navigate these options effectively and to stay informed on the latest immigration policies and procedures.