USCIS returns all FY 2020 H-1B petitions not selected in the lottery

The H-1B nonimmigrant visa classification is for foreign national workers in “specialty occupations,” meaning occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge (generally by requiring at least a bachelor’s degree, or equivalent, in a specialized field).   For each fiscal year (FY), there are only 85,000 new H-1Bs available:  65,000 for foreign nationals with a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent education) from a U.S. or foreign college or university, and 20,000 for foreign nationals with a graduate degree from a U.S. college or university. 

Between April 1 and April 5, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received 201,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions filed for the FY 2020, which is well above the annual 65,000 regular cap and 20,000 advanced degree cap (or “exemption”).

On April 10, 2019, USCIS completed its random selection process, otherwise known as the H-1B lottery, to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated quota of H-1Bs for FY 2020.  On May 17, 2019, USCIS announced that it had completed data entry for FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the lottery, and would begin the process of returning H-1B petitions not selected in the lottery.  For those employers and foreign nationals not yet notified that their H-1B petition had been selected, the ensuing weeks were a period of anxiously waiting for news of acceptance, or the disappointment of receiving a returned H-1B petition.

On August 15, 2019, USCIS announced that it had returned the remaining 116,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions which were not selected in the FY2020 lottery, meaning the waiting period is over.  By this point, all H-1B employers should have either received a notification of acceptance (i.e., a receipt notice) or a returned H-1B petition.

For those foreign nationals fortunate to have been selected in the FY 2020 H-1B lottery, there may be travel restrictions and other considerations associated with their pending H-1B petition.

While there is no indication that demand for new cap-subject H-1Bs will be any less for FY 2021 (i.e., April 2020), USCIS has proposed a pre-registration process that will significantly change the H-1B acceptance/rejection notification process.  While it remains to be seen if USCIS will have the pre-registration process in place in time for FY 2021, there is every indication that they at least intend to do so.