The H-1B visa registration, lottery, and application process for FY 2024 has been fraught so far. After USCIS announced its second lottery picks, it became clear that the agency anticipates low approval ratings from the first-round selections. This comes after it announced wide-reaching fraud investigations to address the shockingly high number of registrations for the period.
The agency initially selected 110,791 registrations for FY 2024, which was already higher than normal. There are only 85,000 new H-1B visas issued each year. While the agency usually selects more than 85,000 registrants in the lottery each year to account for denials and withdrawals, the number varies significantly depending on how many applications it anticipates will not lead to visa approvals. For example, in FY 2022, the agency initially selected just 87,500 registrations to meet the 85,000 cap.
However, on July 31, 2023, USCIS announced its second lottery selection for FY 2024, picking an additional 77,600 registrants. According to analysts, this indicates that USCIS anticipates approving just 45.1% of all registrants chosen across both rounds. But why is the rate so low?
Why USCIS Anticipates Low H-1B Approval Rates
There’s no guarantee that having an H-1B registration chosen in the lottery will lead to an approved visa. However, approval ratings have historically been much higher than this year’s anticipated 45.1%. So, why is the rate so low?
Three factors are likely at play here:
- Fraud: USCIS received 780,884 H-1B registrations for FY 2024, a frankly astonishing number and a 61% increase over FY 2023’s already-high numbers. The agency investigated and determined that a number of companies appeared to be participating in registration fraud, registering the same individual multiple times without having a genuine job offer in place. If it is determined that a given registration chosen in the lottery is fraudulent, it will be rejected for being improperly submitted.
- Multiple Registrations: A candidate may be registered multiple times as long as they have genuine offers of employment by each sponsor. USCIS reportedly received 408,891 registrations that accounted for beneficiaries with multiple eligible entries. It is unlikely all of these are fraudulent. If someone with multiple registrations is selected in the lottery more than once, they may choose the opportunity they prefer and must reject the other.
- Denials and Withdrawals: Finally, there is always a certain number of applications that are denied and candidates who withdraw from the proceedings.
Between rejecting fraudulent registrations, genuine instances of multiple registrations, and normal attrition, USCIS anticipates particularly low acceptance rates this year.
Making the Most of H-1B Registration Selections
If your candidate has already been selected in one of the two H-1B lotteries this year, you have made it past a significant hurdle. However, there is still the risk of having your application denied. With demand for H-1B visas continuing to grow, it is crucial to make the most of a lottery selection by submitting a complete and accurate application within the deadline.
H-1B applications are notoriously complex. Among other concerns, the sponsor and candidate must provide:
- An approved Labor Condition Application
- A comprehensive explanation of the position and job offer
- An itinerary for the candidate’s prospective employment
- Evidence of the applicant’s eligibility for the visa, including official transcripts and diplomas
Failing to provide the correct information in the application often leads to Requests for Evidence (RFEs). Even qualified candidates and sponsors may have their submissions denied if the application is demonstrably insufficient or the RFE is not addressed appropriately.
The most effective way to avoid this outcome is to work with an experienced employment immigration attorney throughout the application process. A skilled attorney can support sponsors and candidates by:
- Explaining and managing the submission process
- Assisting with appropriate document collections
- Confirming whether documents are sufficient for USCIS standards
- Filing the proper forms to the correct locations
Without skilled legal guidance, even experienced employers may make mistakes in these areas that prevent them from successfully hiring qualified foreign nationals on H-1B visas. Employers and H-1B candidates can reduce these risks by reaching out to the expert attorneys at Litwin & Smith. Our team has spent decades representing employers during the visa sponsor process. We are dedicated to providing knowledgeable, efficient legal services to our immigration clients from our offices in California. To learn more about how we can help you make the most of your registration selection in the H-1B lottery, schedule your consultation today.