This spring, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the completion of the yearly lottery selection for H-1B non-immigration visa applicants. This year’s field was comprised of over 230,000 petitions vying for the 65,000 general category visas and/or 20,000 visas reserved for individuals holding a Masters degree or higher. This figure, for the fiscal year that begins in October 2105, represents a large jump of 35 percent over the number of petitions filed last year and means that only 1 in 3 petitions were selected for adjudicated this fiscal year. An immigration attorney can clarify any additional questions you may have regarding H-1B visas and the annual cap on H-1B visas.
Employer and Employee Options to the H-1B
Current Students and New Graduates
Recent Graduates and OPT Applicants who were not among the lucky lottery winners have received rejection notices and had their filing fee checks returned to them. These companies and individuals must consider alternatives for working in the US. Recent graduates may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT), allowing them to work in their field of expertise for 12 months. New STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) graduates who applied for an H-1B visas but whose petitions to were not selected in the lottery have the ability to apply for a 17 month extension on their existing OPT time. Working on OPT can extend the authorizations for these students and allow them to try once again next year for the H-1B Visa.
Employers with International Offices
Employers with applicants whose petitions were not selected in the lottery have additional options if they have a related foreign office or entity. Assigning the rejected lottery applicant for a year of work in the international office buys additional time may qualify them for an L-1 visa for Intracompany transferees. This approach works best for management and corporate level employees, creative and technical staff with highly specialized knowledge of company operations, tools, or processes. This process does currently have a higher denial rate than the typical H-1B Visa lottery, but offers a way to retain a desirable employee who was not randomly selected for a Visa.
Super Star Employees
For those employees with hard to find skill sets, advanced knowledge and extraordinary ability, the O-1 visa offers another option. The O-1 process is highly selective and is most easily completed by employees who excel in fine or performing arts (including movies and television), athletics, science, business or education. The O-1 visa has stringent rules and requires applicants to be well recognized within their fields with proven ability and achievements. This process is more complex than the H-1B visa lottery but does offer a way for the highest achievers to stay in the U.S.
If you’re an employer worried about losing a valued staff member whose petition was not selected in the H1-B lottery or you are working in the US and a lottery hopeful, the immigration attorneys at David Hirson & Partners, LLP can help you work through your options and find the right solution for you. For help with your immigration questions and to learn more about how the process works, contact us at to speak to a skilled immigration attorney and learn more about your options.