How is the H1B visa lottery conducted?

H1B self deportation
H1B self deportation

H1B visa lottery

This article deals with all you need to know about the H1B visa lottery process. And your odds of getting the visa.

As we predicted the H1B 2018 visa cap for was breached today around 2 p.m. EST.  7th April 2017.  If you have not read the previous article about our predictions on when the cap will be reached, how many applications will USCIS receive and when you will get the visa after the H1B visa lottery read it here.

The next question most people have in mind (at least the first timers) is what is the H1B visa lottery? How is the H-1B visa lottery conducted? Continue reading to know all about the process.

What is the H1B visa lottery?

  1. The H-1B visa lottery is CGRSP, also called a computer generated random selection process. Mainly Indian IT workers coined the term H-1B visa lottery colloquially. It is somewhat true to call it a lottery. I will explain this in later in the article.

Is the H1-B visa lottery truly a random selection process?

  1. Short answer yes!
  2. Long answer many people who I have come across believe that there is some bizarre algorithm that goes through the qualifications of each application and selects the application based on market needs. Candidate qualifications etc.  This is not true. If you look at the numbers the probability of application, being selected is about 1/3. And these are the numbers that we see. However, let me also tell you this. Big IT companies from India file so many petitions for their employees such that it reduces the overall probability of any particular individual. What really happens here is these companies file 5000 plus applications when they only want 1000 odd people who need to be sent abroad as specialists. If the above mentioned is a major problem then read further. I have seen many illegal staffing firms also known as body shop consulting firms their entire business model depends on accepting any candidate with just the basic qualifications. Boosting their resume with false information, which includes falsified work experience, fake clients etc. To increase the odds there used to be a time they would use the loophole in the law to apply multiple applications for a single candidate. Genuine candidates get caught in this cross fire. Is the selection random YES! Are the odds high due to spamming? YES!

How is the lottery conducted?

There are many steps in the process as listed below.

  1. USCIS tags all applications with a unique identifier: Also known as petition label or EAC numbering.
  2. Once the petitions are labelled, they are split into each category or subjective quotas these are as follows.
  3. United States Master’s quota: This is for applicants who have studied in the United States this is 20000 in number.
  4. The general quota: this is for all other applicants this is 65000 in number. So there are a total of 85000 H-1B visas
  5. This is assuming that only 20000 masters students apply for H1B. this is obviously not true. USCIS receives more than 20000 petitions from masters students. So they run a computer generated algorithm to select 20000 masters petition.


  1. The left over master’s petition applications are now combined with the general applicants pool.
  2. We already know that the number of petitions that can be selected is 65000 now. But the number of petitions available to select is (Left over masters petition + all other petitions) which we expect this year to be 247500.
  3. Since the total number of petitions in the combined pool is much greater than 65,000 petitions (also known as cap limit or quota) , a computer generated random selection process is run on the pool. Which identifies qualifying application.
  4. Once the identification is made USCIS sends the selected numbers to service centers so that they can start adjudicating.
  5. Petitions that are not selected receive a rejection letter. They also get back their application packets along with the fee.
  6. If USCIS figures out that there are duplicate filings for the same individual the fee is not returned.
  7. USCIS is also at a discretion to file willful violator warning or tag on employers filing multiple petitions. This may result in the employer paying a fine or USCIS may not allow them to file petitions in the future.

Final question that I want to answer is the probability of getting the visa?

Assume you are a masters student. The number of masters application received is said to be 25% of total applications received. (We dont know the exact value because USCIS never releases this number)

So 0.25 * 199000 = 49,750

The first step is masters lottery which is 20,000

20000/49750 = 0.40 or 40% 

Now.. assume that you are the same masters student who did not get their petition selected in the master’s quota. Your application again will be combined with the general application pool 

so now 49750-20000 = 29750 applications are remaining and they will be added back to the rest of the application pool.

This time USCIS received 199000 petitions.

Since we have already calculated the masters quota. We have 199000-20000 = 179000 applications remaining 

But the actual cap is 65000 now. However 1/6th of these applications again will be masters students. 

so it is remaining (3/5)(65000/180000) approx 62%

So for a masters student the total probability of getting his/her petition selected is close to 62% 

If you are in regular quote it is 36 %

I hope this blog helped you understand the process. All the best. The next blog post will focus on results.

If you have not read the previous article about our predictions on when the cap will be reached, how many applications will USCIS receive and when you will get the visa after the H1B lottery read it here.

Be the first to comment on "How is the H1B visa lottery conducted?"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Contact Us   Privacy Policy
%d bloggers like this: