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H1B Lottery Guide 2024

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

Each year, the number of people applying for a US H1B visa typically far exceeds the number of visas available. To deal with the high demand, USCIS operates an H1B lottery selection process. The lottery is used to identify at random enough applicants to proceed with making a full petition.

The H1B lottery involves specific rules and deadlines, which H1B applicants and their potential employers must understand to avoid issues. The H1B program has been subject to considerable reform, impacting the process and costs of applying for a cap-subject H1B visa.

In this article, we set out the rules of the H1B visa lottery, its role in the wider H1B visa application process and what you can do to give yourself the best chance of securing an H1B visa for the US.


H1B application process


You can only apply for an H1B visa if you have a qualifying job offer in the US from an eligible US employer. If you meet this requirement, you will need to follow the H1B application process

The H1B application process is made up of three key stages: the initial electronic registration, the H1B lottery selection, followed by the full H1B petition stage.


1. H1B Electronic Registration


The H1B application process begins with the initial registration phase, which typically opens during March each year. During this period, employers or their representatives must create an online account with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and submit basic information about the prospective H1B worker. This initial registration is a relatively straightforward and low-cost step, requiring only a small fee and basic details about the employer and employee. It is crucial to ensure all information is accurate and complete to avoid disqualification.

Under the new lottery rules, each registered beneficiary is allocated one unique identification number, preventing duplicate registrations and ensuring all individuals have an equal chance of selection.

The registration requires only brief details relating to the applicant, although under new rules from 2025, details of a valid passport or travel document must be submitted for each beneficiary registering for the H-1B lottery.

The H1B lottery selection precedes the petition stage in the H1B visa application process, and is only used if the number of registrations received exceeds the number of H1B cap visas available for that fiscal year – which is usually the case each year.

A further change in the rules means that employers can now petition for H-1B visas with start dates up to 90 days before the beneficiary’s authorized stay expires, offering greater flexibility in employment planning. This is a change from the previous requirement for employment to commence on October 1 of the same fiscal year.


2. H1B Lottery Selection Phase


Once the registration period closes, USCIS conducts a random lottery if the number of registrations exceeds the annual H1B cap of 65,000 visas for regular applicants and 20,000 additional visas for those with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. The lottery is typically conducted in late March or early April. Registrations selected in the lottery will be notified through their USCIS online account. Employers will see a status change to “Selected,” indicating that they can proceed to the next step. Unselected registrations will be marked as “Submitted” and may remain in consideration if additional selections are needed later in the year.


3. Full H1B Petition Phase


For those selected in the lottery, the next step is the full petition phase. Employers must file a complete H1B visa petition (Form I-129) with USCIS, including all supporting documentation and fees. This must be done within 90 days of selection notification. The petition should include evidence of the job offer, the beneficiary’s qualifications, and a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor. This phase requires thorough preparation to ensure all requirements are met. Once the petition is submitted, USCIS will review it, which may include issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) for additional documentation. If approved, the H1B visa will be valid starting from October 1st, allowing the beneficiary to begin working in the U.S. under H1B status.


How does the H-1B visa lottery work?


The number of annual registrations made during the registration window typically far exceeds the annual cap level and the number of available visas.

The annual window remains open to registrations for the full stated period, even after the cap has been surpassed.

Once the registration window is closed, if there are more registrations received than visas available, USCIS will carry out the H-1B visa lottery to identify which registrations will be invited to the next stage.

This is a random selection process of registrations received during the window. Selection is not on a first-come, first-served basis, and selection is not determined by when during the window the registration was submitted nor is there any assessment of the merits of the registration at this stage.

Successful registrations are then notified and invited to submit their full H-1B petition within the specified deadline, which is usually 90 days from notification. In 2024, petitions can be filed from April 1, 2024.

It is important to remember that selection in the visa lottery does not guarantee the visa will be granted. The petition will be assessed against the visa requirements and eligibility criteria.

If the cap is not filled after the initial round of petitions, USCIS may conduct additional lottery rounds and invite further workers to submit a full petition, which has been the case in previous years.

Once the 65,000 H1B cap has been filled, 20,000 petitions will be randomly selected from the Masters Cap petitions. Any of the 20,000 that are not selected will go back into the regular cap.


How many H1B visas are issued each year through the lottery?


The maximum number of H1B visas that can be made available on an annual basis is 65,000 under the regular cap, with an additional 20,000 visas available to applicants holding a Masters degree.

6,800 out of the regular quota are also reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore as part of a specific Free Trade Agreement.


H1B visa lottery chances


Figures from USCIS show the following (as at April 2024):



Cap Fiscal Year Total Registrations Eligible Registrations* Eligible Registrations for Beneficiaries with No Other Eligible Registrations Eligible Registrations for Beneficiaries with Multiple Eligible Registrations Selected Registrations
2021 274,237 269,424 241,299 28,125 124,415
2022 308,613 301,447 211,304 90,143 131,924
2023 483,927 474,421 309,241 165,180 127,600
2024 780,884 758,994 350,103 408,891 188,400
2025 479,953 470,342 423,028 47,314 120,603


*excludes duplicate registrations, those deleted by the prospective employer prior to the close of the registration period, and those with failed payments.

The number of initial selections for FY 2025 – 120,603 – is notably smaller than in prior years, due to the new beneficiary-centric selection process, which is expected to result in a higher anticipated petition filing rate.


Can you improve your chances in the H1B lottery?


Given the lottery takes place only once a year, applicants and their potential sponsors will naturally want to ensure their prospects of success are maximized.

You can take steps to avoid issues with your H-1B registration, by ensuring you are following the process requirements.


  • Ensure that all forms are completed correctly, all requested information and documents have been provided and the correct fees have been paid.
  • Don’t send in your H1B petition before the opening date of the application window in April.
  • Do submit the petition as soon as the window opens.
  • Ensure that you have the required degree or specialist experience to meet the requirements for the job.
  • Ensure that the job itself is eligible for an H1B visa.
  • Apply for each job offer you have with different employers.
  • Don’t send multiple applications for one position or one employer. If an employer makes multiple or duplicated H1B petitions for a single employee, they will be rejected and no refund offered.
  • Don’t enter a petition for a job that will start more than 6 months after the visa start date.


While these will not increase your chances of being selected, they can ensure you are avoiding any potential delays or problems with being included in the lottery selection process.



If you are successful in the H-1B visa lottery


If selected in the H-B1 visa lottery, you will be notified and asked to file your H-1B cap petition

Your employer must first submit a Labor Condition Application form ETA-9035 (LCA) to the United States Department of Labour for certification.

The LCA should state the employer’s agreement to:


  • pay you a wage that is not less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers, or if more than the wage of similarly qualified workers, to pay you a wage that is the generally accepted wage for such a position locally
  • provide you with working conditions that will not have a negative effect on other similarly employed workers, and that there is no current strike or lockout taking place when the Labour Condition Application is filed


Once the certification has been granted, the employer must submit a Non-immigrant Worker Petition form I-129 along with the certified LCA to the relevant USCIS Service Centre.

On approval of the Non-immigrant Worker Petition, you may apply for your visa through the Online Non-immigrant Visa Application system form DS-160. You will be expected to attend an interview at your local US Embassy or Consulate.

The H1B visa is a temporary non-immigrant worker visa that makes it possible for US businesses and organisations to employ graduate-level or otherwise specialist foreign nationals in speciality occupations.

The definition of ‘specialty occupations’ in this context are those occupations which require a practical and theoretical application of highly specialised knowledge, including fields such as engineering, computing or medicine.

Eligibility for an H1B visa relies on the applicant possessing an offer of employment in a suitable role from a US employer and the fulfilment of at least one of the following:


  • A US bachelor’s or higher degree in the relevant speciality occupation from an accredited educational institution.
  • An equivalent foreign degree in the speciality occupation.
  • An unrestricted state licence, registration or certification which allows you to carry out and be employed in the speciality occupation in the US state where the employment is based.
  • Education, training or experience in the speciality that is equivalent to a degree and that you are recognised as having a suitable level of expertise in the speciality.


There are also H1B eligibility requirements for the job that you wish to be employed in. At least one of the following must apply:


  • The job’s minimum entry requirement is a bachelor’s degree or higher degree, or an equivalent qualification and experience.
  • The requirement of a degree for this job must be the norm for the related industry, or the job must be so complicated or specialised that it can only be carried out by an individual who has a degree.
  • The employer requires a degree or equivalent for anyone employed for the job.
  • The duties involved in the job are so complex and specialised that the knowledge level generally associated with a person who holds a bachelor’s or higher degree is required.


If you’re unsuccessful in the H1B lottery


Unsuccessful H-1B applicants must wait until either additional lottery rounds are conducted, or until the next fiscal year to register again for the H-1B visa.


Alternatives to the H1B visa


If your H1B petition is not successful, take advice on alternative visas such as the L1 visa for intracompany transferee roles or the O1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, athletics or business. Your options will depend on your circumstances.


Need assistance?


NNU’s specialist US immigration attorneys can assist you in ensuring that your H1B visa petition is completed correctly, the required documentation is compiled, and that the application process is managed effectively. As specialist legal advisers, we can also help you to consider alternative visa routes, given the highly competitive nature of the H1B Visa Lottery.

If you have a question about the H1B visa, or any other US immigration-related matter, please contact us for advice.


H1B visa lottery FAQs


What is the H1B visa lottery?


The H1B visa lottery is a random selection process used by USCIS when the number of H1B visa petitions exceeds the annual cap. This ensures that all petitions have an equal chance of being processed. The lottery typically occurs after the registration period, and only those selected can proceed to submit full visa petitions.


When does the H1B visa lottery take place?


The H1B visa lottery usually takes place in late March or early April, shortly after the registration period ends. This timing allows USCIS to determine which registrations will be eligible to file full petitions based on the annual cap limits.


How are H1B visa lottery selections made?


H1B visa lottery selections are made randomly by USCIS using a computer-generated process. This random selection ensures fairness and equality among all registrants. There are two lotteries: one for the regular cap and one for the advanced degree exemption.


How many H1B in 2024?


For the 2025 fiscal year, a total of 479,953 registrations were submitted for the annual cap of 65,000 visas.


What are the chances of being selected in the H1B lottery?


The chances of being selected in the H1B lottery vary each year based on the number of registrations submitted and the annual cap limits. Historically, the selection rate has ranged from 25% to 35%, but it can fluctuate significantly.


Why is H-1B so hard?


The H1B visa is highly competitive in terms of the number of visas that are available compared with the number of applications that are made, and the application process can also become demanding on both the employer and the worker. Taking professional advice can help to ensure you optimize your chances of success while also considering alternative US immigration options that may be open to you.


Can I improve my chances of being selected in the H1B lottery?


The lottery process is random, so there are no guaranteed methods to improve your chances. However, ensuring your registration is error-free and timely can help. For those eligible, applying under the advanced degree exemption can slightly increase chances due to the separate lottery.


What happens if I am not selected in the H1B lottery?


If you are not selected in the H1B lottery, you cannot file a petition for that fiscal year. Your options include reapplying in the next fiscal year’s lottery, exploring other visa categories, or seeking employment with cap-exempt employers, such as universities or non-profit organizations.


Can my employer submit multiple registrations to increase my chances?


No, USCIS prohibits duplicate registrations for the same beneficiary by the same employer. If duplicate registrations are detected, USCIS will reject all registrations submitted by that employer for the individual.


How will I know if I have been selected in the H1B lottery?


Employers or their representatives are notified by USCIS through the online registration system. Selected registrants will see a “Selected” status next to their registration, allowing them to proceed with filing the full H1B petition.


What are the next steps if my registration is selected in the H1B lottery?


If your registration is selected, your employer must file a complete H1B petition with USCIS, including the required forms, fees, and supporting documentation. This must be done within the specified timeframe, typically within 90 days of selection.


Are there any exceptions to the H1B lottery process?


Yes, certain petitions are exempt from the H1B cap and thus do not go through the lottery. These include petitions filed by institutions of higher education, non-profit research organizations, and governmental research organizations. Additionally, certain extensions, amendments, and changes of employer for current H1B holders are exempt.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.


Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.