The H-1B Visa Lottery Explained

What is the H-1B visa lottery?

H-1B visas are nonimmigrant visas that provide foreign individuals the opportunity to work within the United States. In order to receive an H-1B visa, the international worker must work in a specialty occupation. Due to the immense demand for H-1B work visas, the United States has placed a cap on the number of visas issued each year. When applications exceed the cap, a lottery process will select those petitions that will be accepted for that year. Our immigration lawyers at NPZ Law Group discuss the H-1B visa lottery process below.

Eligibility for H-1B Visas

To be eligible to receive an H-1B visa, you must be a foreign worker in a specialty occupation. Specialty occupations could include medicine, sciences, computer technology, business, and much more. In addition, you must have an employee sponsor in the United States. Your employer will need to show why he or she requires a foreign worker rather than a local citizen to fulfill the specialty occupation.

H-1B Visa Caps

Traditionally, the H-1B visa has a cap of 65,000 visas per year. An additional 20,000 visas are available for workers with a u.s. master’s or other advanced degrees. The number of H-1B visa applicants typically greatly exceeds the number of available slots. For instance, in 2017, the USCIS received nearly 200,000 H-1B petitions for the regular and advanced degree positions.

H-1B Lottery

When the number of H-1B petitions exceeds the cap, the USCIS will initiate a computer generated process to randomly select the first 20,000 petitions from the advanced degree petitions. Then, the computer will choose 65,000 petitions from the remaining lottery applicants, which will include the unselected advanced degree petitions.

If your application is not selected, you will receive a refund for your filing fees. Employees in certain fields will be exempt from the cap. The H-1B visa can be life changing for those selected, but it is a competitive field. Contact an immigration attorney to discuss your potential immigration options today.

If you should have any questions or need more information about the ways in which U.S. Immigration and Nationality Laws may impact you, your family, your friends or your colleagues, please contact the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers at the NPZ Law Group – VISASERVE – U.S. Immigration and Nationality Lawyers by e-mailing us at or by calling us at 201-670-0006 (x107). You can also visit our Law Firm’s website at