H-1B Professional Visa

The H-1B visa is for professionals – generally bachelor’s (or higher) degree holders and is limited to 65,000 visas worldwide per year, with an additional 20,000 visas for U.S. master’s degree holders, who, in effect, get two bites at the visa lottery cherry (see below). The total quota of 85,000 visas per annum worldwide has, for many years, and remains woefully short of demand.

The opening date for filing H-1B visa petitions is April 1st each year, for a work start date – six months later – of October 1.  An electronic registration system was introduced in 2020 for all H-1B cap-subject petitions allowing applicants to pre-register online during March, with a computer-generated random lottery selection made when the registration period ends (mid to late March). Though USCIS has announced it plans to introduce measures to increase efficiency for H1B lottery in March 2024, and petition processing for FY 2025, (see: https://bit.ly/3vABzBG ) while these changes may help to streamline the process, they won’t increase the odds.  

 Only those applicants chosen in the lottery may file a petition for H-1B visa during a 90-day period from April 1 onwards, for a work start date no sooner than October 1, 2024.  Information required for pre-registration by a US employer is minimal and the cost has only been $10 per employee to date. However, before entering the lottery, an employer must intend to proceed with filing the petition if the applicant is chosen.  Otherwise, an audit/sanctions may result. The employer and the candidate must also be confident that a petition is approvable. For this reason, the merits of any case need to be vetted for eligibility in advance of entry in the H-1B lottery.

 For FY 2025 H-1B cap-subject petitions, the same system of pre-registration during March 2024 will apply, with ‘lucky winners’ being informed before the end of the month.  (USCIS’ FY 2025 begins Oct 1, 2024, and ends Sept 30, 2025.)

Existing and would-be employees who may have no other US visa option besides H-1B, or who will otherwise benefit from potentially switching to an H-1B visa, include F-1 visa holders on OPT; spouses of H-1B and O-1 visa holders;  E, J, and O visa holders who intend to file for permanent residency/green card; cap-exempt workers who wish to transfer employers; and foreign nationals who do not qualify for any other category of US work visa.

To be eligible to file a petition, the applicant must have a US professional job offer (one which requires a degree) and a degree in a relevant field.  In addition, the employer must be prepared to pay US DOL’s prevailing wage for that position in the relevant geographical location and be willing to wait until October 1 (all going well with lottery, and an approved petition) before the applicant can begin working.  Applicants in the US must be in lawful immigration status.  F-1 students on OPT may be eligible for cap-gap extension, meaning that as long as their entry was chosen in the lottery and their H-1B petition was filed before OPT expires, their OPT work authorization will automatically be extended through September 30th.

 Employees of institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated non-profit entity, as well as those employed, or who will be employed, by a non-profit research organization or a governmental research organization are exempt from the cap.

The number of H-1B visa applicants entered in the lottery each March shows clearly that, despite the odds and the uncertainty, US employers continue to want/need to hire qualified foreign workers. 

If you’re interested in entering applicants in the H-1B lottery in March 2024, or you’re an individual with a US employer who’s willing to sponsor you, now is the time to prepare.  Contact us by telephone or email, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Please see our ­News page for more details.

Talk to Us About Applying For a H-1B Visa

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