FY2021 H1-B Visa Lottery: FAQs, Processes and Important Dates

With so many new changes to the H1-B visa announced by USCIS recently, companies are gearing up for the FY 2021 H1-B cap lottery way in advance. Last year, there were over 201,000 petitions for a total of 85,000 available cap H1-B petitions. A new registration process, reversed lottery order and increased scrutiny for each petition has triggered new timelines and a whole new team within each company dedicated to meet USCIS’s H1-B system.
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HomeUS Visa & ImmigrationFY2021 H1-B Visa Lottery: FAQs, Processes and Important Dates

Yr. 2019 received more than 201,000 petitions for an 85,000 cap. With this year’s new processes, we anticipate total submissions to exceed the stipulated annual cap of 85,000. We have everything you will need if you are applying for this year’s H1-B cap lottery.

Important Dates For H1-B 2021 Cap Lottery:

  • February 24, 2020: Petitioners can begin creating accounts with USCIS
  • March 1– 20, 2020: Electronic registrations begin at noon
  • March 21-31, 2020: USCIS selects 85,000 applicants
  • April 1, 2020: USCIS announces results of their selection. The petitioner’s legal point of contact will be notified through the account created on Feb 24th 2020
  • April 1, 2020: Selected applicants can submit their detailed H1-B application
  • April 1- June 30, 2020: All petitioners should be prepared with supplemental documentation – possible RFEs, administrative processing, 221g, premium processing fees, and lastly, join work if all is well.

What is the Eligibility Requirement for an H1-B visa in the FY 2021 cap Lottery?

H1-B is a temporary US work visa offered to a foreign worker who may come in to the US for a limited time period. The primary eligibility requirement for H1-B visa is to have Bachelor’s degree in a specific field of study. A Master’s degree from a university in the US gives a better chance of getting the visa since there is a 20,000-quota set aside just for applicants with a master’s degree falling under the advanced degree exemption. See below for the reversal in lottery process to see how this affects the H1-B visa distribution.

H1-B Electronic Registration Process & Fees

  • Starting this year, all prospective petitioners seeing to file H1-B cap-subject petitions for the FY 2021 cap must first electronically register their petition and beneficiary.
  • There will be a non-refundable $10 fee per beneficiary.
  • The registration process begins on Feb 24th, 2020 and continues until March 20th, 2020.
  • From Feb 24th to March 1st, petitioning employers have to open an account with USCIS and will receive an account number.
  • They can then register each prospective beneficiary starting noon of March 1st until March 20th, 2020.
  • This is a big initiative but is still tentative since USCIS reserves the right to suspend it at any given time.

Documents Required for the H1-B Electronic Registration Process

Each registrant, will need to provide basic information on the company or petitioning employer and the sponsored foreign national. This should include –

  • Employer information: Name, Address, EIN, Contact details of the company’s Immigration lawyer info and/or legal point of contact.
  • Beneficiary’s Basic Information: Name, Date of birth, immigration details including country of birth and citizenship, US education details, if applicable and passport information

Next Steps

Based on the registered petitions, USCIS will select the ones that will go into the random lottery. These petitioning employers will be eligible to file for an H1-B cap-subject petition. The selected applicants will then have to furnish USCIS with the following details in their petition –

  • Labor Certification Approval (LCA): Requires an ETA Form 9035 with a detailed description of what the employee will do, his job duties and the approval thereof.
  • Detailed job description: This has to be as specific and detailed as possible with every technical term and process explained. Not having details (and being generic in nature will result in an RFE)
  • Link to their corporate website
  • Catalogs & Brochures
  • Marketing collateral
  • Employer’s offer letter
  • College degree & relevant transcripts
  • Educational evaluation, if education was outside of the US
  • Valid I-94, if available
  • Existing US visas
  • Other forms of beneficiary’s identity

New Selection Order for H1-B Lottery

The order of the lottery system has been reversed. This year, petitioners with a Master’s degree from a US university will get twice the chance to try out their luck at the random lottery system.

Prior OrderNew Order
Master’s degree holdersRegular cap
Regular capMaster’s degree holders

The first round of lottery selection will include all beneficiaries including regular cap and those eligible for advanced degree exemption. The master degree holders who were not selected will get another chance at the lottery meant to fill the 20,000 cap. This process is intended to increase the number of H1-B beneficiaries selected who have a master’s degree or higher from a US educational institution.

Premium Processing

Last year premium processing was offered in batches. It was also not available for all categories immediately. This year premium processing is expected but there is no indication when it will be accessible. Given that the registration process allows USCIS to first select the petitioners, the premium processing may be offered to only a few.

Stay tuned for more updates as USCIS releases them.



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