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H-1B Lottery Visas Explained

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Companies love hiring outside employees to fill out their teams. It’s a valuable way to obtain non-local talent, and it looks great as a move towards increased diversity.

However, obtaining a visa to work in another country is a complicated process that could take years. Even with a company’s approval, an individual needs to meet certain requirements. 

One of the main ways a company hires foreign workers is through the H-1B lottery system. But what exactly is this visa lottery and how does it affect US immigration? Keep reading to find out more.

What is the H-1B Lottery?

The H-1B visa, also known as a temporary employment visa, is given out through the visa lottery program. It allows companies and other employers in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers trained in a highly specialized area.

The visa program in turn grants an entryway for workers who want a fast-track into the country. However, the H-1B lottery system isn’t an indefinite resource. There is a cap in place on the H-1B lottery that limits how many foreign workers can work under that status every year.

The current cap is 65,000 visas. 20,000 additional visas are also given to foreign professionals who have a master’s degree or doctorate from a U.S. university. 

The initial duration of the H-1B visa is three years and can be extended for up to six years. 

H-1B 2022 Requirements and Qualifications

The H-1B visa application functions as an employer-sponsored visa. An employer must file a petition with the USCIS showing intent to hire a foreign national. 

One of the main requirements is that they ensure that the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers. That worker must also have certain qualifications.

The specialty occupation must require theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge and the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. They also need a good reason to hire from outside of the country. 

Applicant Cap

Even if an applicant meets all the qualifications and has a sponsor lined up, it doesn’t mean they instantly gain an H-1B visa. Instead, their application only enters them into the H-1B lottery.

The number of applicants often far exceeds the annual cap, which means that many people must wait for the next registration window. 

The current applicant cap has been in place since 2006. Before then, the number has fluctuated from 65,000 to as high as 195,000. Lottery selections are processed at random and notified to submit their full petition within 90 days. Immediate family members of the worker are also admitted to the United States under a H-4 visa. This includes the spouse and any children under 21 years of age. 

Visa Application Process

First, a potential H-1B visa holder must reach out to an employer to sponsor them. Without a sponsor, they cannot enter the visa lottery. Before an employer signs them on, they must review the job description to make sure it qualifies as a specialty occupation.

The job must be considered a specialty occupation for this particular visa. They then have to determine the rate of pay and notify the U.S. workforce.

The Labor Condition Application is sent to the DOL for certification, and the employer must register with the USCIS. 

H-1B results can be checked on various websites including the USCIS website. You should get a receipt number to enter into the visa status tracking system. 

Whether or not the individual is selected in the lottery determines the next steps the employer takes. This includes paying a base filing fee, a fraud prevention and detection fee and more. 

To ease the process, employers can utilize online visa platforms that can help connect them to licensed immigration attorneys. 

H-1B Status Compliance

Maintaining your H-1B status means staying in compliance with US immigration law.

First of all, you should always make sure your immigration documents are valid and updated. Keep your passport current and always check on your H-1B expiration date. If you move anywhere within the country, report the new address to the USCIS within ten days.

Your employer should also have access to your address and contact information. On the chance that your employment situation changes, notify USCIS as soon as possible.

This can be anything from a change of work location to a promotion within the company. However, you absolutely cannot seek employment outside of your sponsoring employer. 

Before your visa expires, your employer should submit an extension request six months in advance if they intend to keep you around. 

Alternative Visa Options

You may also consider alternative options in addition to entering the H-1B lottery program. The H-3 visa allows foreign nationals to receive training not available in their home country. If you’re moving within a company to another branch, you can apply for the L or Intracompany Transferee visa. Make sure to research your options and talk to an attorney for more specific suggestions.

Why You May Need an Attorney

Acquiring an H-1B visa is a complicated process whether you’re a worker seeking a temporary work visa or an employer that wants to fill a specific role. There are multiple forms to fill out, fees to pay, and employee qualifications to adhere to. 

For example, a Labor Condition Application (LCA) notice must disclose the number of H-1B applicants, the period of employment, and the occupational classification. There are also forms you’ll need to fill out after the applicant is chosen in the visa lottery. 

It’s also not your only option available, though it can be a valuable choice. Speaking to an attorney can help you make a decision and walk you through the process. 

Get Expert Advice

The H-1B lottery visa is one of the many visas used by companies to fill out their teams with specialized staff.

They also hire other companies or law firms to do the heavy lifting for them when it comes to filling out paperwork and petitions. 

OnlineVisas’ Intelligent Immigration Platform was made to reduce the costs of crafting U.S. visa petitions and win more cases. Connect with an attorney, upload your documents, and build your case. Contact us today to learn more and book a demo.