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H-1B Lottery Selection: Breaking Down the Math

Romish Badani
CEO

On March 31st, USCIS completed its computer-generated random selection process for H-1B Cap candidates. Every year this lottery process understandably causes anxiety and disappointment for employers and international employees who are not selected. It's important to remember that this is a completely randomized lottery process, and a non-selection is not a reflection of your candidacy or credentials.

Let's break down the lottery odds based on industry data released by USCIS on April 1st. A total of 275,000 registrations were submitted through the electronic pre-registration process, a significant increase to approximately 201,000 in 2019, 190,000 in 2018, and 190,000 in 2017. The total number of selected candidates has remained fixed at 85,000 since 1990.

Of those 275,000 registrations approximately 126,500 (46%) were for candidates with U.S. advanced degrees (Masters or above), qualifying those candidates for the advanced degree exemption that sets aside 20,000 slots that only those candidates can qualify for after an initial 65,000 candidates are selected from the full candidate pool.

Based on these figures, the initial draw of 65,000 candidates would include approximately 29,900 advanced degree candidates (65,000 candidates x 46% of total candidates were advanced degree candidates) and 35,100 non-advanced degree candidates (65,000 candidates - 29,900 advanced degree candidate selections). Then, in the subsequent draw of 20,000 candidates, all selections were advanced degree candidates.

In total, this math suggests that 49,900 advanced degree candidates were selected from a total of 126,500 (39% odds for advanced degree candidates). Odds for non-advanced degree candidates were 24% (35,100 non-advanced degree candidates selected in the initial draw of a total 148,500 non-advanced degree candidates).

While our internal data at Bridge slightly exceeded these numbers across our full client base, we can't take any credit for this. The lottery selection process is truly random, and no provider can influence these results in any way. Similarly, we saw some clients experience lower selection rates than the aforementioned industry rates. This is purely luck (or lack thereof), and we will continue advocating for USCIS to increase the total number of available H-1B visas to meet the surge in demand since the program was first established almost thirty years ago.

Update: A recent Forbes article states, the new USCIS system erroneously denied many registrations as duplicates that were not duplicates. According to an AILA practice alert, “AILA has received reports from members indicating that they have received a denial notification . . . for certain H-1B electronic registrations on the basis that the H-1B registration is a duplicate submission."

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.

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