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Understanding the recent changes to the H-1B visa lottery

If you are familiar with the H-1B visa lottery, you may know how competitive the process can be. Prospective employers looking to hire foreign nationals should file for a Labor Condition Application (LCA) before they can petition to join thousands of others in the lottery. Only 85,000 applicants are granted visas, where 65,000 spots are reserved for those with bachelor's degrees, and 20,000 are reserved for those with master's degrees or higher.

This past year, the Trump Administration introduced new rules to the lottery that would prioritize H-1B visa applicants with highly specialized skills. Whether you are an employer or a recent graduate, it is worth taking note of these changes and understanding how they may impact your chances in the lottery. 

What has changed?

  • Tighter criteria: More surveillance measures are being taken to ensure that foreign nationals have the required skills and academic degree. Prospective employers may also be required to prove that no U.S. citizen can perform the job, and that hiring a skilled foreign national would be necessary.
  • The LCA process: As of the 2020 fiscal year, prospective employers will be required to use a newly created electronic form to file for the LCA. This form is said to request more specific information about the job description, the candidate's qualifications, and where the term of employment would be located.
  • The lottery: Those with master's degrees or higher will now have two chances to be considered in the lottery. They will first go through an exclusive selection process that bachelor's degree holders will not be a part of. Advanced degree holders who are not selected during the first round will automatically be deferred to the general pool with the bachelor's degree applicants.

What this means for H-1B lottery applicants

Despite the uncertainty surrounding current immigration laws, the new H-1B rules may work to the advantage of this year's visa applicants. Advanced degree holders may find that they stand a better chance in the lottery compared to previous years. 

Moreover, the electronic process for filing the LCA also makes it easier for employers to begin the H-1B process as soon as possible. Though there may be added pressure in seeking the right to hire a foreign national, the overall workload for obtaining the visa could be much smaller now.


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