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  • Satya Mishra

H-1B Lottery by the Numbers

Updated: May 5, 2020

For the last eight years, the annual quota of 85,000 H-1B high skill immigration visas have been oversubscribed. USCIS has conducted a lottery (really a computer algorithm) to satisfy the mandated maximum quota. Let's look at the FY2021 H-1B lottery that just concluded.

For FY2021 USCIS changed the process so that employers only had to register for the lottery without filing a complete application. Perhaps because of the lower barrier to entry, this year there were a record number of participants in the lottery. A total of nearly 275,000 applications were filed by over 40,000 companies. The lottery was completed on March 31.

USCIS used the same flow as last year, all applications were initially considered for the regular quota of 65,000 visa numbers. This should result (assuming uniformly sampled from each pool) in roughly 29,900 from the US advanced degree application pool and 35,100 from the regular pool. The remaining 96,600 US advanced degree applications would be considered for the 20,000 visa numbers reserved for US advanced degree graduates. So in total, US advanced degree graduates should receive about 49,900 visas and remaining pool should receive 35,100 visas.

Given these numbers, odds of actually landing a visa for US graduate this year was 39% vs 24% for regular quota. Students with STEM designated degrees get maximum of three chances at the lottery. Assuming a consistent 40% lottery rate, they should expect about 77% chance of receiving a visa at some point.

There is a possibility, given the sudden deterioration in economic climate between the opening of the lottery and today, that many of the selected registrants will not complete their application. In such a situation, USCIS may conduct additional rounds of lottery to fill the quota.

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