FY 2025 H-1B Lottery: New Rule Should Improve the Odds for Selection


Around this time every year, our office receives many calls and inquiries about the upcoming H-1B lottery. Yes, it is hard to believe that the annual H-1B filing season is just around the corner. The computerized random selection process (aka "H-1B lottery") for Fiscal Year 2025 will take place in less than 60 days. USCIS announced some enhancements to the H-1B registration and selection process, including creation of organizational accounts and also measures to counter fraudulent registrations. As a result, applicants should see significant improvement in the odds of selection.

Congress created the H-1B visa program in 1990 to enable American employers to hire foreign nationals to work in specialty occupations. The law also limited the number of H-1B visas issued per fiscal year at 65,000. In 2004, Congress added 20,000 additional H-1B visas to foreign nationals holding a master's or higher degree from qualified U.S. universities. Despite the increase in visa numbers, they are insufficient to meet the demand for skillful foreign workers. As a result, USCIS implemented a computer-based random selection process every year to select cases for further processing.  Employer must first register the case electronically with the USCIS with some basic information about the employer and employee.
Unfortunately, the electronic selection process has been misused by some applicants. The most notorious abuse has been the use of multiple registrations for the same beneficiary to increase the chances of selection in the visa lottery. Although an employee/beneficiary could be registered by more than one employer on the system, each registration must be based on a real job offer. Instead, many applicants and employers take advantage of the system by entering multiple entries in the system for the same individual without real job opportunities. For example, for FY 2023, 2 beneficiaries had 75 or more registrations entered for them; 5 beneficiaries had 50 or more registrations; 108 beneficiaries had 25 or more beneficiaries, etc. As a result, applicants with real job offers suffered due to the reduced probability for selection.
To counter such base, USCIS promulgated a new rule on 10/23/2023 to modernize the H-1B program, including provisions to treat each beneficiary's entry to be unique, regardless of how many registrations have been entered for them.  As a result of this change, applicants should expect to see huge improvements in the selection rates.  
Again, take FY 2023 as an example, USCIS announced that there were totally 474,421 eligible employee registrations. In the 10/23/2023 modernization rule, USCIS reported the actual total number of beneficiaries in 2023 was only 357,272, of which 307,483 had only one entry and 49,739 had 2 to 75 more registrations. These additional registrations entered for these 49,739 beneficiaries amounted to 165,180.  The net effect is that 117,199 additional registrations were entered.  If the unique entry rule had been in effect for FY 2023, the number of unique registrations for these employees would have been 49,739 only, instead of 165,180. And we would be looking at 357,222 total registrations instead of 474,421 or about 32.8% less registrations. 
Of course, the above is just a simplified version of what could have happened.  Since each year's specific numbers are different, it is almost impossible to predict with accuracy the actual results for FY 2025.  In FY 2024, we had 758,994 total eligible registrations.  USCIS has not yet announced the exact number of beneficiaries and breakdown of the actual registration counts and, hence, further analysis is not possible.  Other variables include the visa usage by the H1B1 visa program, actual petition filing rate by selected registrants, number of denials due to substantive or technical errors, etc.  It should also be noted that the 32.8% improvement in odds is only a comparison with the situation in previous years in which multiple entries for the same beneficiary were allowed; it is not an absolute improvement in the odds of the H-1B lottery itself, which is still determined by the actual number of eligible beneficiary registrations and the fixed H-1B visa cap of 85,000.  


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