On April 10, USCIS announced that they have reached the annual cap for the H-1B lottery. According to the announcement, USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which ran from April 1 to April 5, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption.

Congress has established a limit of 65,000 cap H-1B petitions that can be approved each year, plus 20,000 “Master’s Cap” cases for those who hold a U.S. Master’s Degree. Historically, USCIS has conducted the lottery for Master’s Cap cases first and then returned any un-selected Master’s Cap cases to the general lottery pool. This year, for the first time ever, USCIS will reverse the order in which it conducts the lotteries, conducting the regular lottery first (including all regular and Master’s Cap cases), and then conducting the Master’s Cap lottery on any remaining Master’s Cap cases. The theory behind changing the order of the lotteries is that it will increase the odds that those with U.S. Master’s Degrees will have their petitions selected in the lottery.

The announcement does not indicate how many of the petitions were “Master’s Cap” cases vs. regular petitions. However, it is notable that the overall number of petitions has increased (thereby slightly reducing the odds of selection, overall). Last year (FY2019), USCIS received 190,098 cap filings; in FY2018, they received 199,000 cap filings; and in 2017 they received 236,000 cap filings. The overall odds of selection have hovered around 1 in 3 for the past several years based on the number of filings.

We anticipate that we will begin to receive receipts for cases selected in the lottery by May, and that rejected petitions will be returned throughout the summer months.