Employers last week submitted 201,011 petitions for a total 85,000 H-1B visas available in fiscal year 2020.
The figure is roughly a 6 percent increase over the 190,098 petitions submitted during the first week of April last year. It’s also the first time in three years that the total number of petitions submitted for the skilled guestworker visas went up from the prior year.
The number of petitions dropped for both fiscal years 2018 and 2019 after hitting a peak of 236,000 for FY 2017. The number of petitions employers have sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services during the first week they could apply has far exceeded the total number of visas available each year for the past seven years.
This year’s H-1B lottery was the first time that the USCIS switched the lottery order to boost the proportion of H-1B workers selected who have advanced degrees.
Under the law, 65,000 H-1B visas are allowed each year, with an additional 20,000 for workers with advanced degrees. A new regulation issued in January pooled all workers—those with bachelor’s degrees and those with advanced degrees—into the lottery for the 65,000 visas first and then established a separate lottery just for those 20,000 slots for advanced-degree holders. The change was expected to increase the number of advanced-degree holders awarded the visas by 15 percent.
The regulation also sets up a new, electronic preregistration process for employers seeking the visas. The process will allow employers to hold off on sending in their complete application packets until they know they’ve been selected in the lottery.
The process won’t be in place until at least next year.