On August 1st, 2023, the USCIS announced it had completed a second round of H-1B registration selections for the FY 2024 visa lottery. Registrants notified of their selection after this round have from August 2nd to October 31st, 2023, to submit their complete applications for their H-1B visas.
Initially, a second round of H-1B lottery selections appeared unlikely for FY 2024. There were a record-breaking 758,994 eligible registrations submitted to USCIS for the year. This total was 61% higher than the 474,421 eligible registrations received for FY 2023 and 252% higher than the 301,447 eligible registrations for FY 2022. However, 408,891 of the FY 2024 registrations were for beneficiaries with two or more eligible entries.
Because there were so many duplicates, USCIS selected 110,791 registrants in the first-round lottery in April 2023. This number was close to the total selections over each fiscal year lottery in recent years, so it was anticipated that the agency would meet its 85,000 visa cap without needing to perform another drawing.
This was evidently not the case. The agency announced a second round of 77,600 selections from the remaining eligible registrations at the end of July. This number is significantly higher than previous second-round lotteries, indicating that the agency accepted approved significantly fewer applications from its first-round selections than it expected.
Second-round selections are uncommon but not unheard of. Below, we discuss why USCIS may have needed to perform the second round lottery and what newly chosen registrants can do to make the most of their opportunity.
Purpose of the Second H-1B Lottery for FY 2024
USCIS aims to issue all 85,000 H-1B visas quickly and efficiently. It normally selects more registrants than needed during the first lottery because it anticipates a certain number of denials and withdrawals each year. However, this year, it appears the agency is approving applications for just 45.1% of selected registrations, a significantly lower rate than normal. But why is the approval rate for FY 2024 so low, and why did USCIS perform such a large second lottery selection?
The answer is likely simple: fraud. The agency announced that it was investigating potential widespread fraud among registrants and sponsoring companies this year. It appears that certain companies may have been fraudulently registering candidates multiple times to increase their odds of selection during the lottery. Fraudulent registrations are not eligible to apply for H-1B visas, so any that were selected in the first round would be automatically denied.
This registration fraud, combined with the high number of beneficiaries with multiple nonfraudulent registrations, is likely responsible for the low approval rate. USCIS’ second round of selections likely needed to be large to counteract these issues and avoid the need for a third lottery later this year.
What to Do If You’ve Been Selected in the H-1B Lottery
Sponsors and candidates who have been notified of their selection in the second FY 2024 H-1B lottery have no time to waste. While selected registrants have until October 31st to submit their applications, FY 2024 begins October 1st, 2023. To make the most of the visa’s three-year duration, it is essential to submit a complete, comprehensive, and accurate H-1B application as soon as possible.
The application process should not be taken lightly. H-1B visas continue to increase in popularity, but the visa cap has not changed since 2004. As a result, selection in the USCIS lottery is less likely each year. Sponsoring companies must take care when drafting and submitting H-1B applications to reduce the risk that their application is denied and the opportunity wasted.
The best way to make the most of an H-1B lottery selection is to seek expert legal guidance from a skilled immigration attorney. Your lawyer will assist you with collecting the appropriate documentation, supporting your candidate’s eligibility, preparing your petition, and responding to any Requests for Evidence (RFEs) you may receive. You can rely on the team at Litwin & Smith to support your H-1B application. We have decades of experience assisting companies and employment visa candidates with their visa petitions and prepare hundreds of successful petitions each year. Learn more about how our California immigration law firm can help you by scheduling your 15-minute consultation today.