H1B lottery registrations will begin in March (called April 2021 season) for the fiscal year starting Oct 1, 2021.
USCIS runs the first round of lottery by end of March and then a second chance draws in Aug if there were not enough applications filed in April.
Your application shows the ‘submitted’ status until Sep 30 and is considered in ‘wait-list’ automatically.
This article will discuss:
Lottery Process Timeline
The lottery process for H1B season is now approaching and employers have started working on new applications.
#1 H1B registration starts Mar 1 at 12 PM and ends on Mar 20, 12 PM.
#2 H1B worker details for registration:
- First and Last name
- Passport Number
- Master Cap Details
#3 Lottery can happen multiple times on demand basis until all 85000 spots can be filled by USCIS.
#4 First lottery will be run around March 23. Selected registrations will be notified by email and text message.
#5 Employer’s attorney will receive the notification from USCIS by March 30. The attorney can also log on to the USCIS registration site and see the lottery result.
#6 Employer will get 90 days to file LCA and submit H1B documentary proof.
Steps After H1B lottery Timeline
- Apr 1 to June 4 – Expect H1B premium lottery selection Email. USCIS status: Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed
- Apr 22 to June 30 – Expect H1B regular Lottery selection Paper Receipt USPS mail. USCIS status: Case Was Received
- June 20 Onward – H1B Consular Processing Regular Application can file Premium Upgrade
- May 20 to June 4 – H1B Premium Approvals without any RFE. USCIS status: Case Was Approved And My Decision Was Emailed
- May 20 onward – H1B Premium RFEs (if any). USCIS status: Request for Additional Evidence Notice was mailed.
- June 1 Onward – H1B regular application approvals. USCIS status: Case Was Approved or Decision Notice Mailed
- June 4 Onward – H1B regular application RFEs (If any). USCIS status: Request for Additional Evidence Notice was mailed.
- Oct 1 – The first date for H1B work start if approved
Is H1B Lottery affected by Coronavirus?
Coronavirus recession may affect the number of H1B applications that are approved finally to start working from Oct 1.
Chances of H1B RFE and approval as per my opinion:
- IT Consulting In-house projects – RFE chance 90%, Approval chance less than 25%
- IT consulting end client project ends before approval – RFE chance 50%, approval chance good if new client letter available – 80%
- Full-time job US employer – 98% chance of approval
The Healthcare sector would be the most in-demand with the airline, banking, hospitality, and retail sector H1B jobs tanking.
Same H1B employer cannot file 2 or more registrations for the same employee. If filing multiple applications, USCIS will remove them automatically.
One person can file multiple H1B applications if the H1B employers are different.
If you have a job offer from Facebook and IBM, you can file 2 separate applications. Basically, Both Facebook and IBM can register you online.
You can change end-client information until you have actually filed the full H1B paperwork after lottery selection.
You will have 60-90 days to send your application package and you can change client details at that time.
H1B applications will always receive results within 15 calendar days if filed with premium processing.
H1B regular applications selected in the lottery can take between 3 months to 1 year for approvals.
Upgrading your H1B lottery application to premium has the same chances of getting RFE as any regular H1B application.
Premium processing does not increase denial chances either.
You can start working on Oct 1 if your H1B application has been approved after lottery selection.
The chances of H1B approval or denial after lottery selection vary by your employer and the documents submitted.
Almost 30% of H-1B applications filed by IT consulting companies like Cognizant, Capgemini are denied by USCIS as per past data.
You can estimate your H1B approval processing time if your application has been selected.
F1 Students in OPT or STEM
If your H1B has been selected in Lottery, your OPT end date in SEVIS will be extended or updated to Sep 30. You can see this change in SEVIS yourself as a cap-gap student.
Did you know that you can get Amazon Prime Student 6 month FREE trial for F1 visa holders studying in USA?
What Next after H-1b approval?
Once you see the H1B receipt status as “Case was approved” on the USCIS website, your employer will receive approval from USCIS called i797A within 7-21 days.
There are two possibilities if your H1B has been approved after lottery selection:
#1 H1B CHANGE OF STATUS
This means that you are already in the US on some other visa like F1 or H4 or any other and you filed to change your visa type with H1B approval.
Your US status will automatically change on Oct 1 as this is usually the first date that you can start working on H1B.
You should get a NEW i94 with status mentioned as ‘H1B’ and a new i94 validity date. There is NO need to get an H1B visa stamp if you do not plan to travel outside the USA at this time.
#2 H1B CONSULAR PROCESSING
Consular processing means that you get an H1B visa stamp in your passport by visiting the US embassy. It is for people who are outside the USA or have explicitly opted to go out of the US.
You need the H1B i797A form in original along with other supporting H1B documents to apply for a visa stamp in the US embassy.
Note that you will need to fill form DS-160 and schedule an appointment with the US embassy for an H1B interview. You can also file an H4 visa for your dependents along with your H1B visa stamp.
Once you get this H1B visa stamp, you and your H4 dependents can travel anytime from the validity start date to the US and start working in the US.
H1B Transfer Before October 1st
If your H1B is approved before October 1st to start the H1B job on Oct 1st, you can file an H1B transfer to the new employer on Oct 2.
Legally, you can file an H1B transfer on Oct 1st as well, but USCIS may issue an RFE asking for previous H1B status which can only be proved if you actually were employed for at least 1 day.
Your H1B employer from the lottery is obligated by USCIS to withdraw your H1B petition once you have stopped working for them.
USCIS does not inform your employer about your H1B transfer.
Life in USA after H1B approval
Once you enter the USA and start working on H1B for the first time, you will need to complete many formalities to start your US financial life.
I have listed the steps that you should take to kick start your H1B journey from opening a bank account, applying W7 ITIN tax form for your dependents, Applying US driving License to understand the US green card process.
H1B RFE – Request for Evidence
It is possible that your H1B receives a USCIS RFE after lottery selection. Request for Evidence is normal with Specialty occupation as the topmost reason for RFE.
If you are working for an IT consulting company, you can expect to receive an RFE to prove the employer-employee relationship.
USCIS gives 60 days to respond to RFE. Once RFE documents are submitted, the average RFE response time is 90+ days for regular applications.
H1B premium applications receive result within 15 days of RFE submission.
You can also receive a second RFE if the documents submitted by your employer are not sufficient or are missing something that USCIS asked in the first RFE.
Travel while H1B is Pending after Lottery Selection
You can travel while your H1B application is pending approval after it has been selected in Lottery. But, you would need a valid US visa (other than H1B) to re-enter the USA.
Some people may have H4 visa or others may have F1 to come back to USA.
Please note that once you travel outside the USA while your H1B is pending, USCIS may not approve your H1B with ‘Change of status‘.
Your H1B may just be approved with ‘Consular processing’ which means that you will have to go out of the USA, get an H1B visa stamp, and then enter the USA.
You should understand the difference between Consular Processing and Change of Status.
US Masters Degree – 2 chances of Lottery Selection
The new H1B lottery changes will benefit US master’s degree holders as they will get a second chance in the lottery for selection.
You can request a new I-120 from your school and extend your OPT if it is expiring before you even receive an H1B receipt by submitting valid H1B filing proof.
H1B filing Proof before Receipt generation:
- I-129 copy
- FedEx or Mailing service receipt