U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released guidance on the H-1B random-selection lottery process for 2021. The registration window will be open from noon EST March 9, 2021, to noon EDT March 25, 2021. The fee will again be $10 for each submission.

This advisory explains the registration process, qualifications, and exemptions.

What Is the H-1B Lottery Registration?

For individuals who have not been approved for H-1B before, there is an annual lottery held every Spring. This is the only time during the year when USCIS accepts H-1B petitions for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2021. The lottery and H-1B filing process involves two steps:

  • (1)  H-1B Registration: An employer submits basic company information and the name of the candidate(s) they would like to include in the lottery. Each entry is $10 and only one entry is permitted per individual.
  1. (2)  USCIS conducts the lottery during the last week of March. Those entries that are selected are notified electronically and the employer files a full H-1B petition with USCIS from April 1 to June 30.

Demand outpaces the annual allotment of 85,000 new H-1Bs. Last year, USCIS received 275,000 registrations for 85,000 H-1B slots. There are some exemptions to the lottery (see below).

Who Qualifies for H-1B?

To qualify for H-1B approval, the offered job must be one for which at least a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) is normally the minimum requirement, and the candidate must hold the degree (or its equivalent) in the specialty related to the position. There are also prevailing wage requirements that your DWT attorney can advise on.

Common candidates for the H-1B lottery include:

  1. Students and recent graduates of U.S. universities who hold F-1 status and who are working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT work authorization;
  2. Professionals working in TN, E-2, E-3, O-1, and H-4 EAD status; and
  3. Future candidates your company would like to hire, but are not currently employed in the United States or are working for your company abroad.

Are There Any Exemptions From the Annual H-1B Cap?

Individuals who have previously been subject to the lottery and H-1B status or visa approved, such as those seeking extensions or change of employer, do not need to go through the lottery process again. Additionally, select categories of educational or nonprofit organizations that file H-1B petitions are exempt from the H-1B numerical limitation.

DWT Is Your H-1B Resource

DWT attorneys have already begun working with employers to prepare H-1B lottery submissions. It is imperative that employers take advantage of this short filing window to avoid waiting another year for the opportunity.