Reform of the H-1B Lottery and H-1B-System is Vital to the U.S. Economy

Reform of the H-1B Lottery and H-1B-System is Vital to the U.S. Economy

Posted By: Seth Leech

The H-1B lottery and the H-1B system are broken. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlights some of the major deficiencies with the selection process. But these are not the only deficiencies within the system. 

Every year, even during the height of the COVID pandemic, the demand for H-1B professionals has been very high and is apparently growing. U.S. businesses have a continuing and strong need for professionals in specialized fields. This need cannot be satisfied by the U.S. workforce alone. The H-1B has been the primary visa mechanism by which U.S. businesses can satisfy critical needs in their workforce. However, H-1B visas are limited to 85,000 a year, a number developed many years ago that does not meet with business realities that exist today. 

To determine which companies get the H-1B for their employees, the federal government created a random lottery. The ”H-1B Lottery” took its current form about three years ago and allows companies to register future desired employees annually in March. Companies and their prospective employees have a great deal of hope that their  selection will occur by the end of March or early in April. 

Selection rates have varied over the years, but they have ranged between 30% and 40% before the current online electronic form of the lottery. With these odds, many companies, unfortunately, try to game the lottery system. As pointed out in the WSJ article, this may be particularly true for certain types of tech companies. This gaming of the system has a very negative impact on companies with genuine needs. The results from this year's lottery were the most disappointing to date with just approximately 15% of all entries being selected. Thousands of engineers, scientists, researchers, business and IT professionals, and others ready to contribute to the American economy are now left trying to figure out how to remain in the U.S. or join the workforce in another country. America loses. 

Ultimately, it's not just the lottery system that needs to be reformed; the H-1B numerical quota itself needs updating. To keep up with the pace of American business and the economy, H-1B limits must be removed so that the number of annual H-1B visas is market dependent and not artificially tied to an outdated statutory quota. If this type of real world approach was taken, there would be no H-1B lottery to address!

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If you have questions regarding immigration, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Seth Leech by e-mail ( or phone (518.487.7760) to see how the Immigration Team at Whiteman Osterman & Hanna may be able to assist.

Tags:   H-1B / immigration /
Practice Area(s):   Immigration